Laxmikant Kattimani is one of the best goalkeepers in India: Hyderabad FC’s Manuel Marquez

Hyderabad FC head coach Manuel Marquez felt the first half of the Final of the Hero Indian Super League (ISL) was controlled by Kerala Blasters FC but a strong comeback in the second half capped off by Laxmikant Kattimani’s crucial saves in the penalty shootout meant they were crowned as the winners of the 2021-22 season.

The deadlock was finally broken by Rahul KP in the 68th minute, putting Kerala Blasters FC in the lead. However, in the final few moments of the match, substitute Sahil Tavora fired the equaliser from outside the box to extend the match into extra-time and ultimately a penalty shootout where Kattimani’s brilliant custodianship helped Hyderabad FC lift the title trophy.

Manuel Marquez alongside captain Joao Victor addressed the media after the game. Here are some excerpts from the head coach press conference:

Many people had given up on Laxmikant Kattimani’s skills, why did you persevere with him this season?

Marquez: For our style of play. People ask me about this all the time. I always say he is the best goalkeeper for our style of play. He is a goalkeeper who is not only in the goal but he is good with the feet and play outside the box like today. In my opinion, Prabhsukhan Gill played very well this season but maybe because I am the coach of Hyderabad, if I have to choose one, for sure it is Kattimani.

Should Kattimani have received a national call-up?

Marquez: First of all, when I have to speak about one thing that is not for me, I have huge respect for other coaches and Igor Stimac. I cannot say if this player should go (for national duty) or not. I can only speak of the level of Kattimani during these two years. He is one of the best goalkeepers in India. Kattimani practically didn’t make any mistakes.

What was the chat during the half-time and was there any specific advice for Tavora?

Marquez: At half-time, we spoke about playing more compact. In the first half, we had too much space between our lines. In the second half, we controlled the situation more. Even they scored before us and we equalised late. We know what our situation has been in the last few weeks and days, I think we played with a lot of personality.

With changes in the rule of how many foreign players can play, what is the way forward for the club?

Marquez: If I tell the truth, this is the thing that makes me the happiest. Last season, when we had injuries to our foreign players, it was the moment for young players to show their quality and they played very good football and finally, six players were in the national team. This year, in my opinion, we are thinking about selling the players, finally, continuity in football is what it needs more of. We have a clear example of who won the season with the regular coach last season and who won the ISL. Of course, there are coaches like Ivan (Vukomanovic) with a fantastic job but having continuity with players is a key for me.

Here are the excerpts from Victor’s press conference:

How hard was the match today?

Victor: As the coach said, in the first half, Kerala controlled more or less of the game. They had one chance and we had a chance as well. But it is special because it is a final. We had people in the stadium, we had young guys who maybe felt a bit (of pressure). But in the second half, we played a very good game.

In the pre-match press conference, you said the team has given its everything, how happy are you with the team?

Victor: It paid off. It paid off what we did during the season, even the last season, both played in a bubble. We went into quarantine because of Covid, we couldn’t fight for the Shield because of that. We have to be far from our families, which is difficult for all of us. As I always say, we are like a family, it makes it easier. For me, it is the best group of people I’ve been with in my career.

How difficult was it with the majority of the crowd supporting Kerala?

Victor: We are used to the crowd, When I enter the field, I stop hearing. It doesn’t affect me. Of course, if they are in front, the fans have to push them. It is a bit of extra power but in the end, our fans were enough to help us win.

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