The coach wants to work on his team’s psychology ahead of the eliminator against Odisha FC.

ATK Mohun Bagan did the double over rivals East Bengal with a 2-0 win in the final game of the Indian Super League (ISL) league stages. Slavko Damjanovic and Dimitri Petratos got on the scoresheet in the second half to solidify a win that guarantees a third-place finish for Juan Ferrando’s men going into the playoffs.

The Mariners play Odisha FC in the second eliminator at the Salt Lake stadium on the 4th of March 2023. Here is what Juan Ferrando had to say in the post-match press conference.

Ferrando’s thoughts on the win

Juan Ferrando was pleased with the win and getting the third-place finish in the league stages. Describing his thoughts on the big win, he explained: “Today, my pressure in my mind was to get the third position. It was the most important thing for me. It was important because we needed three points to get the third position. It becomes relatively easier to play the playoffs at home. Our target in the dressing room was to get the three points because it was important. No need to change the chip of our mentality and prepare for the playoffs.

“The performance was okay. A lot of players were tired because we played a lot of games in February, five matches. Some players were tired because of that. But they know how to control key moments of the match and I’m happy about this. I‘m not very happy, but not very upset either. We have a very good squad and very good players full of talent. They are working hard in difficult moments and I’m happy to have this situation.”

Upcoming Odisha FC game

Giving his thoughts on qualifying for the knockout rounds with ease, the Spaniard stated, “Yesterday I said that the most important thing was to get the third position. It was a difficult season for us and getting a third position is nice. I’m not completely happy, but it’s to think about the playoffs now. I’m 50% satisfied with the league stages. I’m happy with the win, but we’ve experienced a lot of problems this season.”

Speaking on the game against Odisha FC for the knockouts, Juan Ferrando said,  “It’s necessary to prepare for the game. We have a week for that, it’s an important match because it’s a knockout game. When you play a double-leg one, you know there are chances in both games. But in a knockout tie, one mistake can knock you out. It’s important to work on our psychology and to improve our focus. We can’t make easy mistakes and must delete that from our game.”

Home advantage in the eliminator?

When asked if he feels ATKMB have the advantage to play the game at home, Juan Ferrando said, “It’s one game in 90 minutes. Of course when you play at home, maybe it gives the players more confidence to place in front of the supporters. They support the team in difficult moments. But in 90 minutes, we have five days to prepare for the game. But you can’t take risks, see more control. Odisha have very good foreigners and a good squad and it’s necessary to prepare because we want to be in the semifinals. We must control a lot of things to win the match.”

What sparked ATKMB’s improved performance in the second half

ATK Mohun Bagan came out a much-improved side in the second half against East Bengal than what they were in the first 45 minutes. Speaking on what sparked this change, Ferrando said, “I’m happy with both halves. If you watch the game, you’ll think the first half was not good. We tried finding the spaces in the first half. It’s normal for East Bengal to be more compact which makes it difficult to find spaces in the first half.

“In the second half, the distance between their midfield and defense grew. Manvir and Ashique attacked the pacesetter, and Kiyan played great in the last 10 minutes. We had more chances to find empty spaces in the second half. If you think we played much better in the second half, it was because we found the empty spaces. If you can find the spaces at the right time, you can control games better. I’m happy for our performance across the entire 90 minutes,” he added.

Can ATKMB follow the Hyderabad model to win the ISL playoffs?

When asked about how confident he is about winning the ISL playoffs and if his side can be inspired from Hyderabad FC’s heroics from last season, the Spaniard claimed: “Hyderabad played the three better matches in the playoffs and they won the final. We are confident of course, if you win games you gain confidence. But you need to think that every match is different and it’s important to be ready for the Odisha game. We must forget about our last two matches against Odisha. It’s the most important thing for us.”

Praise for Damjanovic and a message for Joni Kauko

Juan Ferrando was all praise for Slavko Damjanovic’s performance, as he detailed after the game: “Slavko is an incredible professional. He’s working hard and he has been helping the team in the dressing room, he understood our mentality quickly. He is incredible. Not only with his performance on the field, which is good, but also with improving the dressing room atmosphere. It’s necessary to know about this, it’s important to talk about this. When we started our first game this season, you can see the change in our lineup from that and today. We changed 8 players from that game. It’s a perfect job for the players to get this finish. It’s also my job to continue working with the and helping them. I hope we can reach the final and win the trophy.”

Finally, the ATKMB manager had some kind words for the injured Joni Kauko and said: “I repeat all the time. He’s an important player for me. He’s not here because of an unlucky injury. But for me as a coach, it’s easy when quality players are available.

“He’s a good man and is a perfect professional. But we must work without him. I hope he recovers well and can help the team in the future. For me, the most important thing is that the foreign players help a lot and are working hard. The local players are inspired by them and their performances are good,” he finished off with.

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