Hyderabad FC head coach Manolo Marquez felt that it was an equal game with equal chances for both teams as his side shared the spoils against ATK Mohun Bagan in the first leg of semi-final of the Hero Indian Super League (ISL) 2022-23 at the G.M.C Balayogi Athletic Stadium, in Hyderabad, on Thursday.

The home side began the contest on a strong note with chances from the beginning. Joel Chianese came close to open the scoring for Hyderabad FC only for Vishal Kaith to stand strong and keep it 0-0. Meanwhile, the visitors registered their first shot on target late in the first-half but came very close to opening the scoring with Pritam Kotal rattling the crossbar after Subasish Bose nodded Dimitri Petratos' freekick.

With this result, both sides will be heading into the second leg with added motivation to book a ticket for the final. This goalless draw showed prime example of why these both sides boast of some of the best defences in the Hero ISL. With 11 clean sheets each, they equal the record for most clean sheets in a single Hero ISL season. Marquez felt ATK Mohun Bagan got away with a good result despite the draw.

"It was a very tactical game, it's true that there were not many chances but the chances which came were very clear. There were many actions where things were close like (Pritam) Kotal's close-range shot to the crossbar, Vishal's (Kaith) save from Joel (Chianese) and the shot from Yasir (Mohammad) that hit the post. I think it was an equal game without too many chances. In fact, they (ATK Mohun Bagan) came for this score, they knew they got a good result because they know that they are a strong side in Kolkata," Marquez said in the post-match conference.

The second leg will be played in the Mariners' backyard, and with an impressive home record of seven victories out of 10 home games, the Mariners would be hoping to make the home leg count. The reigning Hero ISL champions haven't won against ATK Mohun Bagan in Kolkata, but Marquez believes their excellent away record will turn out to be productive in the second leg.

"I know they're a strong team at home, they are a confident side when playing at home. We won seven games playing away and we got more points in away matches as compared to the home fixtures in the league stage. But we know that the one match we lost was the away match against ATK Mohun Bagan, that was a bad game for us and they deserved to win," he said.

"Now it's like a final and the final is at the pitch of ATK Mohun Bagan so let's see. We know that we are facing one of the best teams in India. I'm confident about my team, if we win we'll be happy and if they win then we'll congratulate them but we want to win and only one team can go in the final," he added.

The highly anticipated clash saw enthusiastic fans turning up in support of their home team to make it to the second consecutive final in Hero ISL. Hyderabad FC head coach expressed his gratitude to the fans' support and motivated Hyderabad FC to finish in the top position every season.

"We are very grateful to the people who came and who were coming to support us. We are very happy with the support we received in today's match and yes, we felt that the crowd was with us. In terms of football, Hyderabad FC have to finish in the top position of every season, it's difficult but Hyderabad have to recover the football in the 50s and 60s when they were the champions," Marquez stated.

This semi-final is a repeat of Hero ISL last season's semi-final clash. Last season, Hyderabad FC managed to better the Mariners on the aggregate score and went to the final, eventually winning their first-ever Hero ISL trophy. Marquez reiterated his belief in keeping the same approach in the second leg and talked about ATK Mohun Bagan being one of the best teams in India.

"Everybody knows that we play 4-2-3-1 and that's the formation we keep. We don't change much and I think when things are working it's better to not change. It'll depend in the first few minutes on who scores the first goal whether it's ATK Mohun Bagan or us because then obviously, the other team has to attack and then it'll finally open the match. We want to be brave from the first minute but we are facing one of the best teams in India. Sometimes you want to attack but the opponent is strong and they have quality players. I don't know if they'll recover players like Ashique (Kuruniyan) or (Glan) Martins, they have a very good team so let's see," Marquez commented.

"As a player, I liked to play in front of a packed stadium and I like playing away matches. When you're playing at home you know they're are people to support you but when you play in an away fixture they (The fans) don't play, only the players but it's going to be an even match and they are a strong side," Marquez concluded.