In the second semi-final first-leg of the Indian Super League 2021-22 season, Hyderabad FC beat ATK Mohun Bagan 3-1 at the Bambolim Ground on Saturday.
The Nizams finished second in the league table while the Mariners finished third.
However, the semi-finals of any tournament is a match where past records seldom matter. In a two-legged semi-final, the first one is always a game of nerves. Teams don't want to be pegged back into the game and start the second leg with a disadvantage.
The match started with both teams trying to keep the ball and settle into the game. However, ATK Mohun Bagan had a better start as they created more openings. They took the lead in the 18th minute courtesy of a Roy Krishna goal from a Liston Colaco cross.
Hyderabad FC had better chances after the water break. Eventually, Bartholomew Ogbeche equalized for the Nizams in added time in the first half.
The second half started with the Nizams taking complete control of the game. Md Yasir gave them the lead in the 58th minute after he curled one into the bottom corner from the edge of the box with a first-time shot.
Javier Siverio doubled the lead for Hyderabad FC in the 64th minute when he scored from an Md Yasir corner with a brilliant header.
ATK Mohun Bagan's Kiyan Nassri hit the post in the game's dying embers.
Hyderabad FC will go into the semifinal second leg with a two-goal advantage with this win.
On that note, let’s take a look at the four things we learned from today's game.
#1 A game of two halves
ATK Mohun Bagan started the game as the better side and took the lead in the 18th minute.
However, Hyderabad FC slowly started finding their feet in the game after the water break. Ogbeche scored the equalizer in added time in the first half.
The second half was all about Hyderabad FC as they scored two goals in the span of six minutes to secure a two-goal lead.
The match was a classic tale of a game of two halves. The Mariners had the upper hand in the first half, whereas the Nizams had the better of them in the second half.
#3 ATK Mohun Bagan has issues in defense
ATK Mohun Bagan started the game with an attacking approach as they played Roy Krishna and David Williams in attack from the start. Their approach gave them an early lead in the 18th minute but failed to provide them with stability in the midfield. This hampered the Mariners' defense.
Sandesh Jhingan's return to defense gave hope to the Mariner's faithful but it was the opposite that happened.
Jhingan's reckless tackle helped Md. Yasir get the ball for Hyderabad FC's second goal. The tackle resulted in an injury to his teammate Tiri, who is now doubtful for the second leg.
With Tiri doubtful for the second leg, ATK Mohun Bagan have huge issues in defense. Hyderabad FC wingers often beat their wingbacks, creating numerous spaces for their attackers.
With Tiri's absence in defense, the ATK Mohun Bagan defense looks like a house of cards waiting to be demolished.
#2 Hyderabad FC stage a perfect comeback at the right time
Hyderabad FC have been playing brilliant football for the past two seasons. Last season, they narrowly missed the playoffs; this season, they were the first team to make the last-four.
They were the front runners to win the league shield as well before a covid scare put paid to that dream.
The dream of winning the ISL title was intact, and today they showcased brilliant football to put forward their claim to win the title.
The Nizam's went a goal down in the 18th minute but scored the equalizer in first-half injury time.
In the second half, the Nizams took control of the game and scored two goals in six minutes to secure the victory.
The way the Nizams played after going a goal down showcased their footballing brilliance that has been praised throughout the season.
#1 Hyderabad FC go into the second leg with a healthy advantage
The Nizams were the frontrunners to win the league shield. However, they were dealt a crucial blow when their leading players were out with Covid at a critical phase of the league.
The Nizams had most of their players available for the game against the Mariners but had a sloppy start. After the water break in the first half, they made a good comeback.
The way they played in the second half showed that they can cope with life without Asish Rai and Nikhil Poojari. A two-goal cushion that they secured in the span of six minutes will help them in the next leg.
Manolo Marquez will be happy with the way his side reacted to his plans after going a goal down. It was also the first time in ISL history that Hyderabad FC beat ATK Mohun Bagan. The win came at the perfect moment for the Nizams.
In the second leg of the semifinals, the Nizams go into the game with a two-goal advantage which will give them a considerable advantage.