Habas banks on ‘trophy-winning experience’ to do the job against Mumbai City FC in grand finale
ATK Mohun Bagan will be looking to cap off their debut Hero Indian Super League (Hero ISL) campaign by beating Mumbai City FC in the final of the 2020-21 season at the Fatorda Stadium in Goa on Saturday. The Mariners have had a fine season, ending the league stage in second spot with 40 points before beating NorthEast United FC in the semis, and they will be hoping to finish with a flourish.
ATK Mohun Bagan’s head coach Antonio Lopez Habas, of course, knows what it’s like to win a Hero ISL final having done so twice and the Spaniard, ahead of the game, maintained his players were ready for Saturday’s grand finale. “The feeling is the same as it was last time. We have to compete well and have the idea to win, with absolute respect for the opponent. But I feel that my players and my team is ready for the final,” he said at the pre-match press conference.
Mumbai City FC beat ATK Mohun Bagan twice in the league stage but Habas doesn’t think that those results will have any bearing on the final. “In football, every match is absolutely different. I feel the last [two] matches against Mumbai City FC have been settled on small details. In the first match, we had the opportunity to score before Mumbai City FC and after that they scored a goal and won it. In the second match, there were a few accidental goals as we don’t normally concede in set-pieces. I feel we will go with a different style against Mumbai City FC and I’m confident that my team can win,” he said.
While expanding on Mumbai City FC’s set-piece prowess having conceded twice from such situations in their last outing against the Islanders, Habas added: “I think that at the moment we are facing a team with 65-70% [of their goals coming] through set pieces. We have to control our game in set-pieces. We have the same possibility to win because we are in the final. For me, this is another final with the idea to win.”
Habas went on to praise Mumbai City FC’s head coach Sergio Lobera and believes that he’s doing a good job with the Islanders. “…He is a young coach and has a bright future. I have absolute respect for him because he has the determination and personality to win. It’s important for a coach as the team can replicate his style perfectly,” the Spaniard opined.
However, he felt that his players’ experience of winning a Hero ISL final could give the Mariners a slight edge over Lobera’s men. “I don’t think the mental situation is important in the final. Because it is different. I want to say that we have several players with experience in a final. Maybe that experience helps us. My idea is to have the possibility to win,” Habas said.
Habas was joined at the press conference by ATK Mohun Bagan’s leading scorer Roy Krishna (14 goals) and the Fijian shared his pride at being a part of the Mariners’ rich legacy. “We are blessed to be part of this very huge club. I know how important this is for the fans. We are going to go out there and do what we have done this season,” he said.
He didn’t seem fazed by the added pressure that comes with a final. “Pressure only comes when you think too much. I’m only doing my job to help my team. As a team we’ve been playing really well,” Krishna said.
Krishna also waxed lyrical about Manvir Singh, who has been a standout performer for the Kolkata giants this season having netted six times. “Manvir is a good signing and we knew how good he was when he came. All credit goes to him. He does very well in training, works hard and that shows on the pitch,” the 33-year-old said.
The Fijian striker, in fact, feels that several up-and-coming Indian talents have what it takes to perform in the A-League, where Krishna had plied his trade for several years and was even the Golden Boot winner once. “I think this season we have seen a lot of young Indian players who are pushing us foreign players. Everyone deserves and can play in the A-League. Because the standards are pretty much the same or even better here. Hopefully, next season they could play in a foreign league. This season one of the highlights is Manvir, so the youngsters can learn from him to get better next season,” he said.
Krishna needs to score just once more to secure the Golden Boot but he is more focused on collective success. “I try my best to score, but it’s all about the team from Day 1. If I win the Golden Boot it’ll be a bonus, but I want to do my best and win the trophy for the team,” he said.