The Spaniard also felt the Mariners played a superior brand of football than the Highlanders for at least 75 minutes on Saturday night.

ATK Mohun Bagan were held to a 1-1 draw by NorthEast United in the first leg of their Indian Super League (ISL) playoffs game on Saturday. The Mariners took the lead in the 34th minute through David Williams, but Idrissa Sylla scored a dramatic equalizer to deny the Kolkata giants an advantage heading into the second leg. Following the game, the Mariners’ head coach Antonio Habas spoke in the post-match press conference.

The Spaniard was understandably frustrated not to get the win against the Highlanders. “In semi-finals, the tie is decided in two matches. It’s more important not to lose  the first match in the eliminators,” he said.

“Evidently it’s better to win these games but I don’t remember a lot of teams who won with a big difference in the first match of a playoffs, maybe last season it happened but not more than that.”

Did ATKMB miss Tiri and Jhingan?

The tactician also admitted that the Mariners missed the services of Tiri and Sandesh Jhingan – both of whom were ruled out of the game.

“Yes, we missed them because I don’t remember chances going much to the opponents. Only by creating free-kicks or by long-balls. I think we have the opportunity to comeback in the second match and we have to win that,” he opined.

Concerning to draw against weakened NEUFC?

Speaking about whether it’s concerning that the Mariners drew against NorthEast United, even with their star striker Deshorn Brown not available for this game, Antonio Habas expressed there is no room for complaining.

“Even we don’t have Edu Garcia, Sandesh or Tiri for this one! You don’t hear me complaining. I don’t really understand what is the problem here,” he expressed.

Watch: Antonio Habas speaks in the post-match press conference

The ATK Mohun Bagan head coach also squashed any speculations about his side being defensive after scoring the first goal to try and preserve it.

Did ATKMB play defensively after scoring?

“Today, we played better football than the opponents for at least 75 minutes. After that, we conceded a few silly fouls and gave them freekicks which complicated the situation. But, I don’t remember us gifting chances to the opponent here.”

“We had the opportunity in the first 45 minutes to score one more. But, after that a lot of nerves set in because if you lose the game by two-three goals, it means you’re out. All the teams need control in the first match and after that, we take a decision in the next one.”

Emphasis on second leg

Antonio Habas boasts of a record of never having won the first leg of a playoffs game in the ISL, while winning the title thrice over the years. Speaking about it, he quipped, “It’s not necessary for a team to win the first match. Because I’ve seen teams in the ISL to win the first match of the playoffs by a margin of 3-0 and get eliminated after that. In football, in the eliminators, it’s all decided in the two matches and not the first one.”

The tactician insisted that his side will be more motivated to win the second leg than NorthEast United. “No, they will not beat us in terms of motivation. We are more motivated. We are no.1 in terms of motivation to win the ISL,” he concluded.

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