Antonio Habas: My special connection with ATK continues

ATK FC clinched their third Hero Indian Super League (Hero ISL) trophy after overcoming Chennaiyin FC 3-1 in the Hero ISL 2019-20 final at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Goa on Saturday. ATK head coach Antonio Lopez Habas, meanwhile, became the first head coach to win the Hero ISL trophy twice, having led the Kolkata-based side to the title in the inaugural season back in 2014 during his first stint with the club.

At the post-match press conference, a triumphant Habas began by analysing the fixture, which according to him, was a tale of two halves. “I think that the match had two different parts. In the first half after the initial few minutes, we were better than Chennaiyin. And after that in the second half, with the injury to Roy (Krishna), the team was nervous. We couldn’t find the necessary personnel to keep scoring and kill the match off. In the second half, the team didn’t play well. But even though we didn’t play well, we had fantastic character. In some matches, you can win with the heart and today, ATK won 3-1,” he said.

The Spaniard also applauded the work put in by his players throughout the course of the season. He stated, “I have to congratulate the players for the fantastic work they did all season. They were disciplined. We are a group always, inside and outside of the pitch. This is important. We had big problems with injuries to Carl McHugh, then Agus (Iniguez) and today, in the final, the problem to Roy. But the strength of the team was the collective effort.”

Continuing on the same note, the 62-year-old added, “We had to move in the market with the injury to Carl McHugh. He could play in centre-midfield or centre-back and his injury was a big miss. After that, with the problem with Agus, the team was in a problem for two, three matches. But I think, the strength of the group salvaged the situation. When you have individual problems, the only solution is the team, the collective. This is the idea. I think that the mix between Indian players and foreign players was fantastic this season.”

Asked about the secret behind his success with ATK, Habas noted, “ATK has people that love me, like I love ATK. I have a special connect with ATK since the first season and it continues. We are a family. This is amazing. This is the secret.”

On why he favoured the unconventional 3-5-2 system throughout the season, Habas claimed, “We changed our system eight or nine times. The more important is the fundamental principle of play. We kept the 3-5-2 system because we have two important players in attack like (David) Williams and Roy. We had to use them. But more importantly, you have to learn what are the fundamental principles of the team are. After that, you can change. You can move this formation.”

Finally, the ATK head coach compared his success in the first Hero ISL to the latest one. “It’s different because in the first season, the Hero ISL wasn’t the same competition. Now it is much more professional. There are better coaches, better players, more teams, more time in the competition. This title is more important than first, but the first was also important because it was the first title,” he opined.

Read the Match Report here.

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