Hyderabad FC have got off to a winning start in the seventh edition of the Indian Super League (ISL), courtesy of a 1-0 victory over Odisha FC in their first outing. Hyderabad gaffer Manolo Marquez Roca showed faith in young domestic players, and they repaid him with a clinical and disciplined display against OFC. The youngster who shone the brightest was 19-year-old Akash Mishra, who is garnering praise from all corners for his prolific display down the flanks.
Making his ISL debut, the teenager excelled at left-back and was integral to the Nizams registering their first clean-sheet in ISL history along with three points. It seemed like one-way traffic from the first whistle as Akash Mishra — along with fellow full-back Asish Rai — troubled the Odisha defense with crosses. Mishra had a lively outing at Bambolim, recording a 74% pass accuracy and completing 27 passes.
Marquez heaps praise on Akash Mishra
Marquez heaped praise on the prodigy for his starring role in an all-around sturdy defensive display by the Nizams. Marquez believes that Akash Mishra has a great mentality and earmarked him to become one of the finest left-backs in the country.
“I think he is a very quiet player,” said Manolo Marquez glowingly when asked about Akash Mishra. “He has a very good mentality and for me, he will be one of the best left-backs in India soon. I think he is a very good left-back, but of course he has to improve,” the Spaniard added in the post-match interview.
The young starlet was omnipresent on all quarters of the pitch, while holding his lines perfectly, and barely giving the opposition any space to breathe. He exhibited various dimensions of his game against Odisha. He ran tirelessly, strode forward with the ball, played the ball out from the back, tackled, and made clearances.
His best moment came in the 47th minute of the match when he intercepted and delivered a crucial tackle on Nandhakumar Sekar. The Odisha winger was almost through on goal and one-on-one position with Subrata Paul but Akash Mishra tracked back in time, pressurized, intercepted, and ultimately retrieved the ball from him.
The Uttar Pradesh born defender spent three years training in Germany after making it through the trials conducted by U Dream Football Academy in 2015. Akash Mishra returned to India in 2018 and soon broke into the Indian U18 side. He was stellar at the back and even netted two vital goals as India roared towards the SAFF U-18 Championship crown in Nepal last year.
His performances paved way for a move to the Arrows and he blossomed, establishing himself as a regular starter and playing in every minute of the campaign. He earned the reputation of being a tough customer to deal with for wingers in one-on-one situations during his I-League stint. His solid displays for the Blue Colts caught the eye of many, and a move to the top-flight seemed imminent.
The highly-rated left-back was eventually snapped up by Hyderabad FC from AIFF's developmental side Indian Arrows ahead of the upcoming season. He was transferred for a whooping ₹40 lakh fee, and penned a three-year deal along with fellow young talents Rohit Danu and Biaka Jongte upon his arrival.
Akash Mishra was expected to fight for a spot against his more experienced teammate Sahil Panwar, who has been a part of ISL in prior seasons. But Hyderabad's shoddy defensive record in their debut season forced Marquez to freshen things up at the backline. Mishra has repaid his manager's faith by hitting the ground running.
Mishra is still a work in progress, and has huge potential, going by the immense talents he possesses at the tender age of 19. He needs to put effort into his crosses and decision-making in the final third for a more refined end product. He has all the tools, and most importantly the time, to make it big and reach his true potential.
Now it remains to be seen how he nurtures under the guidance of a veteran coach like Marquez. For Akash Mishra, the rest of the season will serve as a litmus test for a promising future.