Hyderabad FC head coach Manuel Marquez is aware of his team’s two-goal advantage and urged his players to be brave and tackle the threat posed by ATK Mohun Bagan players, as his side takes on the Mariners in the second leg of semi-final 2 at the Athletic Stadium in Panaji, Goa, on Wednesday evening.

After outclassing the Juan Ferrando-led side in a 3-1 victory in the first leg, Marquez wants his team to be fully focused on the second leg and not get too ahead thinking about the final. Further, the 53-year-old admitted that key moments of the game will be decided psychologically rather than the usual football.

Match Preview: Semi-final 2, second-leg Preview: Onus on ATK Mohun Bagan to mount a comeback as Hyderabad FC eye final

Ahead of the second leg of their semi-final clash against ATK Mohun Bagan, the Hyderabad FC head coach addressed the media during the pre-match press conference.

Here are the excerpts from the coach’s press conference:

What are the key takeaways from the first leg of the semi-final? And how big is the two-goal advantage heading into the second leg?

I think that it was an incredibly hard game, not just our semi-finals but both the semi-finals were hard. They [ATK Mohun Bagan] scored before us and I think they played better than us in the first half, especially the first 30 minutes. After the drinks break, our team showed the quality that we have shown throughout the season.

We did well in the second half, scoring two goals, but it was not easy to control ATKMB’s attacks. Every substitute improved their team, but the two-goal advantage is really good in games like these. For sure, Wednesday’s game will be difficult but we will have our options to qualify.

What are some of the key areas where you would like to improve on from the first leg, considering ATK Mohun Bagan will be looking to make a comeback?

I think we have to be brave in the first half, we can go out, maybe because it was the first time in the history of Hyderabad to play in a semi-final against players with a lot of experience. We have players with experience but some of them are really young.

More or less, we have to play in an organised way. They had a lot of attacks, but they were very dangerous because they have very good players, who, with individual actions, can decide the game. So, we have to try and play our normal game, not only to score goals. We want to win the game because we know that if we go into the field trying to defend, it will be exceedingly difficult for us.

What was the talk at half-time and what do you think the players did differently in the second half?

We have to be brave, we arrived at the semi-finals after making the top four. If you’ve arrived at the semi-finals and are scared, maybe you have to change the sport and play an individual sport.

If you play a collective sport like this, you can lose, you can draw, you can win, but you have to play, and sometimes you will miss one chance or you will miss one pass, but you have to try. I think that our mentality was very good in the second half, and we were scared in the first minutes.  

A word on Hyderabad FC’s defence who stood strong despite ATK Mohun Bagan putting so much pressure on them, especially in the second half.      

I don’t know if we managed a very good defence because in the last ten minutes, they had five or six consecutive corners. We did manage the situations in corners. We defended strongly in some moments of the game and that is a good moment to remember.

We’ve seen ATK Mohun Bagan going on the attack right from kick-off. What are your thoughts on that?

For them, it’s the same situation as they had against Jamshedpur, they need to win by a two-goal difference. We know they have to start the game very strong; we have to equalise from the beginning and let’s see what happens. In some moments, the game will be more psychological than the usual football, and the team who manages this kind of situation better will qualify for the final.

As I said the other day, if you look at their bench, they’ve got Ashutosh [Mehta], Prabir Das, Kiyan [Giri], Boumous [Hugo], Carl McHugh, and Manvir [Singh]. They’ve got a very strong side for the 90 minutes. If they win the game and qualify, I will be the first one to congratulate them. But it’s true that we have to manage our physical condition in a better way. And if we avoid the last minutes like the other day, it’ll be better for us. 

With one step away from making it to the final, what kind of mental framework do you expect the players to be in - take this game and not think too much about the final?

We are not thinking about the final. We are 100% focused on the game on Wednesday. If we qualify, we will enjoy ourselves for a day and start preparing for the final, play the final and enjoy it because the stadium will be full of fans.

If we cannot, it will be disappointing, but I think the season is a historical one for Hyderabad, but of course, we are not thinking about losing this game, we are thinking that we can qualify for the final and I know that all the pressure is on ATK Mohun Bagan at the moment because they need to win.

What are your thoughts on Akash Mishra emerging as a versatile option in both attack and defence?

He’s an especially important player for us, he’s young and has to improve in a lot of areas. For me, he’s the best left-back. For example, in Krishna’s [Roy] goal, maybe he was not in the correct position, but in another action, he was very good.

He defended a shot from the goal line, and I think he played a good game. He’s one of our young good players, but still has a lot of potential and has several things to improve on.