Manuel Perez: The win was a big step towards the semi-finals for us

ATK FC left it late to earn a hard-fought 1-0 win over NorthEast United FC in Match 68 of the Hero Indian Super League (Hero ISL) 2019-20 at the Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan in Kolkata on Monday. It took a stoppage time winner from substitute Balwant Singh to secure the victory and return ATK to the top of the table.

At the post-match press conference, ATK assistant coach Manuel Perez praised his team for toiling hard right till the end and said, “First of all, I want to congratulate my team on a great effort. We fought till the end and got three very important points tonight.”

Admitting that ATK found it hard to break down a resolute Highlanders defence on the night, Perez stated, “They were playing 5-4-1, so it was difficult to attack a team playing in their own half. They also have good defensive players. It was a difficult match for the attack and we weren’t having our best match either. We made changes in the second half and put two strikers on, which helped.”

He also reiterated the significance of the win, which took them back to the top of the Hero ISL table, and opined, “It’s an important win. Our first target is to reach the semi-finals. Today we took a big step towards our goal. With four matches left, we will try to finish top. We will be back to training and focus on the Jamshedpur match. David Williams and Mandi Sosa will be available for the match, so we are looking forward to it.”

Explaining his decision to bring on goal scorer Balwant for Edu Garcia late in the contest, Perez remarked, “Balwant is a thorough professional and he has been training really well. He is not getting a lot of minutes on the pitch because we have a lot of very good options in the striking department, which is where he plays. We took out Edu Garcia and put Balwant in towards the end, which allowed us to be a little more direct. We did something similar against Mumbai where Balwant fought for the ball and Roy Krishna scored late. That was the idea. I am really happy he scored today.”

Read the Match Report here.

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