ATK Mohun Bagan head coach Juan Ferrando has blamed his side’s disappointing defeat to Kuala Lumpur City FC in the AFC Cup Inter-Zone semifinal to “psychological problem” when up against big clubs of the continent.
ATK Mohun Bagan had everything in their favour — a partisan crowd, 78 per cent ball possession and 19 shots at goal (twice their rivals had) — but they lost 1-3 to repeat their 2021 show.
“It is a psychological problem, but when playing for a big club, it is necessary to show character. Even if you miss an opportunity, you have to continue working,” Ferrando said after ATKMB’s defeat at the Salt Lake Stadium on Wednesday.
“The players are very disappointed, like me, but the solution is that we continue working.
“We need to work on our finishing, it is a problem. After 65 minutes, I was talking to the players that it is necessary to show our character and personality,” the Spaniard said.
KL City FC’s Brazilian captain Paulo Josue struck a peach of a goal against the run of play at the hour-mark but Bengal’s Santosh Trophy hero Fardin Ali Molla restored parity just before the regulation time to give ATKMB a glimmer of hope.
Just when it looked like the match would head to extra-time, Fakrul Aiman and Romel Morales struck in the space of three minutes in the second-half stoppage time to seal a dramatic win for the Malaysian side.
Ferrando, however, was happy with his side’s attacking qualities as they dominated possession and had more shots at goal.
“One team was playing to attack and the other was waiting for opportunities. For me, it was important to make the decision to attack, and to be the boss on the field,” said Ferrando.
“We made three mistakes and conceded three goals. From my point of view, my team was trying to find space, but we had no success.
“I’m not thinking about the ball possession or about passing, but we need to create opportunities and score, that’s the most important thing.” He said he was disappointed because every time his players created opportunities, the Kuala Lumpur goalkeeper was comfortable in making saves.
Kuala Lumpur City FC created history by becoming the first Malaysian side to make it to the inter-zone final since the format was introduced in 2017.
They will face fellow debutants PFC Sogdiana in the inter-zone final on October 5.
“The good thing for us is that we don’t have any pressure. We have already overachieved in this competition, so we will try to enjoy and give our best, that’s the only thing I ask from my players,” Kuala Lumpur City head coach Bojan Hodak said.