The first leg of the 2022-23 Indian Super League (ISL) semi-finals definitely delivered, with both games featuring some fierce football. The margin for mistake is nearly zero at this point, and the four teams undoubtedly kept that in mind during the first leg.
Winners of the ISL Shield The first semi-final was hosted by Mumbai City FC, with their opponents Bengaluru FC on a roll. The two clubs had previous experience in high-stakes games, but it was the Blues who prevailed with a 1-0 victory against the Islanders, thanks to a second-half goal by Sunil Chhetri.
Meanwhile, in a rematch of last season’s semi-final, ATK Mohun Bagan travelled to ISL champions Hyderabad FC. The first leg of the tie finished with neither team finding the back of the net. Yet it was a thrilling match, and both sides have a lot to play for in the second leg on Monday, March 13.
On that topic, here are the highlights and lowlights of the first leg of the 2022-23 ISL semi-final.
As the hour comes, so does the skipper.
We anticipated Mumbai City FC to control possession while Bengaluru FC to stay in a low block and attack their opponents on the break. That’s precisely what happened in the game, as the Islanders pushed Simon Grayson’s tough backline to the test.
Grayson inserted Sunil Chhetri at the hour mark, and the tie turned direction. This end-to-end game suited Bengaluru more than Mumbai, thus it was up to the visitors to start attacks.
Their efforts eventually paid off with 12 minutes of regulation time remaining. Roshan Singh’s corner found Chhetri in the area, and he skillfully flicked his header beyond a hapless Phurba Lachenpa.
In the face of enormous pressure, Chhetri took command and shown an unrivalled degree of coolness and decisiveness, securing the victory for his side.
Nevertheless, the 38-year-old might have scored more, but Lachenpa denied him many times. Simon Grayson, on the other hand, will be overjoyed as his team takes a slim lead into the second leg, which will be hosted at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium on Sunday, March 12.
Hyderabad FC and ATK Mohun Bagan demonstrate their defensive abilities
At the defence, both Hyderabad FC and ATK Mohun Bagan have excelled. These two clubs have given up the fewest goals this season, and their defence has come to their aid when their offences have faltered in front of goal.
The defences were tested throughout the first leg due to the calibre of offensive skill on both sides. Yet they held their ground and the game ended 0-0.
The Nizams’ backline was commanded by Odei Onaindia, with Akash Mishra, Chinglensana Singh, and Nikhil Poojary remaining focused. Meanwhile, the Mariners’ defence was led by Slavko Damjanovic, who was well assisted by Pritam Kotal, Subhasish Bose, and Asish Rai.
Furthermore, the two goalkeepers – Vishal Kaith and Gurmeet Singh – were on point, making great saves to keep the score even. This performance clearly indicated the cause for Hyderabad FC and ATK Mohun Bagan’s success this season.
Mumbai City FC succumbs to pressure
Des Buckingham’s Mumbai City FC had high expectations after playing some spectacular and eye-catching football during the league rounds. They dominated possession and came close to winning the tie early on.
They dominated possession early in the game and came close to scoring in the first half.
But, once Bengaluru FC had weathered the storm, the Islanders were at a loss for ideas. Their routines were predictable, and their best players underperformed. The Blues, on the other hand, increased the pressure and finally beat them again.
Momentum has proven to be a key component in games like these, and Mumbai have been lacking it recently. Buckingham will be hoping for a turnaround in the second leg after three successive defeats.
Problems in front of goal for ATK Mohun Bagan
As previously stated, both Hyderabad FC and ATK Mohun Bagan have been strong defensively. While the Nizams have repeatedly showed the ability to generate chances, the Mariners have struggled to breach their opponents.
Hugo Boumous was relatively invisible in the first leg, while Dimitri Petratos did not have a shot on target until the 95th minute. Manvir Singh and Liston Colaco both failed to step up once more.
Just the bottom three teams in the league have scored less goals than the Mariners, indicating their difficulties. While Juan Ferrando would be happy with a draw. He is mindful of Hyderabad FC’s away record (seven wins in 10 games).
In the Salt Lake Stadium, an exciting ISL semi-final awaits. But, given ATK Mohun Bagan’s failures to generate opportunities and Hyderabad’s defensive tenacity. The odds are stacked in favour of the visitors.
If Petratos and Boumous are taken out of the game, Ferrando would look to his Indian strikers to take over and score goals.