I’m at my best when I play further up the pitch: ATK Mohun Bagan’s Joni Kauko after Maziya win

ATK Mohun Bagan midfielder Joni Kauko put up a stellar show against Maldivian side Maziya S&RC with two goals at the Salt Lake Stadium in Kolkata on Tuesday as the Kolkata-based club advanced to the inter-zonal semifinals of the AFC Cup 2022.

Needing a win to qualify for the next round after Gokulam Kerala FC failed to beat Bashundhara Kings, the Mariners cruised past the Green Boys as they put past five with the help of Joni Kauko (26’, 37’), Roy Krishna (56’), Subhashish Bose (58’), and Carl McHugh (71’).

Match Report: AFC Cup 2022: ATK Mohun Bagan register comfortable victory over Maziya S&RC to qualify for Inter-Zonal Semi-Finals

Delighted with the win, Finnish midfielder Kauko said that he is proud of his team, and is enjoying a tad different role in the field as he spoke to the media after the match.

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

You put an incredible performance in front of the fans. How satisfied are you with the result?

Very nice. There were a lot of people today. We played a good game, in some moments we can always be better, but in the end we were dominant in the game, and the entire journey in the group stage has been amazing, we just lost one game to Gokulam Kerala FC. So, I’m really happy and proud of the boys.

How are you enjoying your new role, having a more attacking approach than defensive, after the appointment of Juan Ferrando as the head coach?

I don’t think I have any problem with the role, I think that has been my position as I’ve been playing there for four years now. Initially, in the first ten games, I was playing in a defensive role and that was a new thing for me, and it didn’t deter me. I felt like I can always give my best and help the team. But if I can be further up the pitch, more like in the centre of the game, that’s when I feel I’m at my best.

You played your first game with ATK Mohun Bagan last year against Nasaf in the AFC Cup. So, how has your journey been with ATK Mohun Bagan and what have you learnt so far with this team?

It was quite a shock to me in that first game against Nasaf where we lost 6-0. We had a couple of good games later on, then I felt like I really wasn’t there when I played in a more defensive role. As soon as I got further up the pitch, I felt in a much better position, with more contributions from my side. So far, the journey has been great, I’m really enjoying my time here. This is what I came for here, completely different experience and completely different teams, and I can’t wait for the next game.

This is the first time you played against a Maldivian club, what is your take on the game played by the Maldivian players?

You wouldn’t expect such tactically and technically good players from such a small place. They played really well and they showed they’ve been practising a lot.

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