Hyderabad seals the semi-final berth with a 1-0 win against ATK Mohun Bagan
A late winner from the star Nizams striker Bartholomew Ogbeche decided the winner of a neck-to-neck battle between two ISL powerhouses at Hyderabad’s GMC Balayogi Athletic Stadium. It is now official that the Men in Yellow will be directly advancing into the penultimate stage after clinching the runners-up position for the second consecutive season.
Hyderabad’s favorite boy, Chinglensana Singh finally made his awaited return to the starting XI after spending the majority of the season in the dugout. Manolo Marquez made a surprising move of sidelining Ogbeche and handing over the captain’s armband to Nikhil Poojary.
On the other hand, Juan Ferrando opted to go with a different player combination and was forced to make multiple changes in the Green and Maroon lineup. The likes of Liston Colaco, Glan Martins, Slavko Damjanovic and Puitea were called up to take the places of injured and unavailable ATKMB knights.
The high-profile battle between two Top 4 combatants commenced with a kick-off whistle from the veteran referee CR Srikrishna. Hyderabad graced the GMC Balayogi Athletic Stadium in traditional yellow kits against the Mariners who took the first kick of the game donning away white colors.
The gameplay was kick-started at a slow and steady pace as both of the managers were acquainted with each other’s strengths and did not want to put their goal line at risk. A rigorous attempt of the ATKMB defender Slavko Damjanovic to get the ball from Joel Chianese in the 21st minute forced the referee to take out a yellow card from his pocket quite early in the clock.
The Nizams had a positive start and were in right control of the play till the 20 minutes but could not sustain it further in the latter phase of the first half. They were consistently knitting the goal-scoring but the erroneous crosses and impatient finishing of the HFC attack kept them away from breaking the deadlock. A long-ranging early attempt from the Deccan assailant Mohammad Yasir in the 2nd minute turned out to be the only shot on target from the home side.
The Kolkata-based outfit relatively had a better first half and came very close to scoring the opening strike on several occasions. Hyderabad gloveman Gurmeet Singh Chahal certainly was the busiest goal among the two as the visitors registered eight shots and two targeted ones in the first 45 minutes. However, the offensive unit of the Mariners was also unable to find the breakthrough and the scoresheet remained undisturbed on 0-0 at half-time.
Manolo Marquez made a solitary change after the half-time break replacing Hitesh Sharma with Sahil Tavora meanwhile, the star striker Bartholomew Ogbeche stayed on the substitute bench despite the high speculations roaming around.
Glan Martin’s struggle to stand up in the 60th minute also forced the ATKMB gaffer to ply his first substation trade as the teenager Lalrinliana Hnamte took the battlefield in place of the Goan defensive midfielder.
Nothing changed much in the second half action as both coaches did not make any changes in playstyle and kept faith in the same approach. The all-time ISL top-scorer, Ogbeche was finally brought onto the pitch in the 79th minute which not only charged up the Deccan Legion but also turned out to be the game-changing moment of the match.
Right after the awaited substitution, the Mariners staged a rapid counter-attack driven by Kiyan Nassiri but could not get a clinical finish from Dimitri Petratos.
The Spaniard Hyderabad gaffer pulled on the offensive substitutions of Ogbeche, Rohit Danu, and Abdul Rabeeh to bring lives into the Hyderabad attack for the final minutes. The match-winning move for the Nizams was initiated by Rohit Danu who found Borja Herrera in the middle and the midfield maestro served it to the ageless Big Bart.
Ogbeche outwitted two opposition defenders at an ease and pulled the trigger to net a stretching strike into the ATK Mohun Bagan goal.
The rest of the work was done by the Hyderabad defensive line which protected a tiny 1-0 lead from the Green and Maroon Brigade until the full-time whistle. Despite featuring for only 11 minutes, the 38-year-old Nigerian stalwart still went on to bag the Hero of the Match honor after scoring his 61st ISL career goal.
Left-back Akash Mishra stated in the post-match presentation that the HFC gaffer was quite unhappy with their first-half performance and implemented key changes to fetch results afterwards. Juan Ferrando and the boys were devastated after suffering from yet another losing outcome despite putting up diligent efforts.
The Telangana-based outfit has a scheduled home fixture with Jamshedpur for the next week and will continue to play in front of Deccan Legion at Gachibowli Stadium on Saturday.
On the other hand, ATK Mohun Bagan will be heading back to the City of Joy where they will be playing their remaining two league fixtures against Kerala Blasters and the Kolkata Derby against East Bengal.