A force to be reckoned with, Hyderabad FC arrived in the Hero Indian Super League (ISL) 2021-22 with the objective of crossing the finish line that they missed last season by the barest of margins, stranded at fifth on the points table.

They are now the first team to qualify for the semi-finals and are the strongest contenders for the League Winners’ Shield as they eye a fourth consecutive win against Jamshedpur FC for the first time in their history.

Much of this season’s success has been credited to their head coach Manuel Marquez who has wrung the best out of his squad and it was Bartholomew Ogbeche who has headlined and ushered them to this moment of nearing glory with his scoring prowess, making him the leading goalscorer in the league.

However, gone unnoticed in the shadows of greatness, Akash Mishra and Asish Rai have quietly made an exploding statement going beyond the call of duty by not only defending the high castles of Hyderabad FC but setting up the offence on numerous occasions.

Mishra scored his first goal in the Hero ISL against Odisha FC and followed it with another goal against NorthEast United FC, helping his side clinch six important points that are now proving gold dust.

“It is always a good feeling to score a goal. As a defender, it means that much more when you can do well at the back and also add goals to your team. But we got two wins at a crucial point of the season and that is just as important,” said Mishra in an exclusive interview with ISL Media Team.

His full-back partner Rai too has played a potent role in furthering the Hyderabad FC threat. The defender leads in the charts of most assists (6) in the clubs’ Hero ISL history. Rai also bombs forward and regularly puts in crosses for Hyderabad FC. He has managed 56 crosses in 14 matches – the most this season.

The two fullbacks form an important partnership, combining for 34 chances created this season. Mishra recalled the budding days of this coalition that has now reached fruition in Hyderabad FC’s reign to the top.

“I have been playing with Asish from when we were at Indian Arrows and also the National Team. He is a very good player, who works really hard in training. I have learnt a lot from him not just about defending but about the overall game of a full-back. We are really good friends off the field as well and look up to each other and improve each other every day.

In the off-season, he is usually a real inspiration in the gym. He does help me out in the workout routine which is not really easy,” added Mishra.

The duo often alternates when it comes to joining the attack. When Mishra attacks, Asish stays back and vice versa. A strong bond has enabled this team to improve consistently as they near the summit.

“Yes, we speak a lot, but it is not just me and Asish. We as a team talk about our roles often and make sure that our basics are always good. We tell each other our mistakes and help each other improve. This is the kind of bond that has made us a strong team. Everyone trains hard and knows their roles in the team which makes it easier for us,” said Mishra.

Hyderabad FC’s next assignment after securing the qualifying spot is to cement their pole position, however, a tough test in Jamshedpur FC awaits them on Tuesday at Athletic Stadium, Bambolim.