Hyderabad FC head coach Manolo Marquez was elated by the reception of the fans and was impressed by the atmosphere they created at the Shree Shiv Chhatrapati Sports Complex in Pune after his side’s season opener of the Hero Indian Super League (ISL) 2022-23 season against Mumbai City FC ended in a compelling 3-3 draw.

The defending Hero ISL champions went down in the first half through a Chinglensana Singh own goal but skipper Joao Victor rose to the occasion as he converted from the spot in added time of the opening hald to restore parity. The second half saw end-to-end action as Halicharan Narzary added his name to the scoresheet while Victor completed his brace. The Islanders, on the other end, made amends through Greg Stewart and Alberto Noguera.

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Marquez was delighted with his team’s performance and also appreciated the fighting spirit shown by their opponents. The Spaniard was satisfied with how the sporting contest ended while also commenting that Mumbai City FC will finish in the top four this time.

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

It was a good game for the fans. How do you view the game overall?

Yes, I agree, it was a good game for the fans, maybe for the coaches. I think this is the first time in three years that we conceded three goals in one game except when we played with ten or eleven players with Covid against JamshedpurFC where we didn’t have enough players to field. I think it was an incredible game for the spectators because even though they scored first, we scored back with two, but then they equalised twice. Finally, the score is fair because both teams played looking for a win and it ended out to be a draw.

This seemed just like a home game for you - fans in the stadium with a lot of cheer. Anything you want to say to your fans who came all the way to Pune to support you?

Yes, this is the best. The last two years, not only for the crowd, but for the health of everyone, the world suffered from the disaster of the (Covid) pandemic. However, now it seems that we are coming back to the field with the fans, it was a fantastic atmosphere in Kochi and another fantastic atmosphere in Bengaluru. It is true that we had to play in Pune, but I was surprised that a lot of people who came from Mumbai - which is close by - but also from Hyderabad, even from Pune. I think that it was a very good atmosphere. Two days ago, I was thinking that it would be another game like in the bio-bubble, but it was impossible to speak with the players on the pitch because the spectators were cheering loudly throughout the game.

You got an equaliser late in the first half and your team came all guns blazing in the second half. What did you tell the team at half time?

I think we entered the second half in a good way. Some players, such as Yasir (Mohammad), played a fantastic game. I think that I’m extremely happy with the performances of some players because we had a difficult pre-season, and now I am very satisfied with the performance of the team. Our team stuck together in the best as well as the worst moments, which is very difficult to do.

It was a high intensity game. How do you think this game now helps you build as you move forward into the season?

Too much, yes. I was thinking about the match so much that I was sweating a lot because it was incredible, even when we were losing, we had the feeling that we could turn the score. And the same was the scene, when we were winning 2-1 and 3-2, there was a feeling that they could equalise the game because they have incredibly good players and I’m completely sure that Mumbai City FC would be in the top four this season. And I think our team wants to win more, and we will compete like this again.