Indian Super League (ISL) champions Atletico de Kolkata’s (ATK) coach Jose Molina went about his job without pomp but poise, according to Indian coaches.
ATK beat Kerala Blaster 4-3 (1-1 in regulation time) in the final at Kochi on Sunday.
Often criticised for his lack of enterprise in attack and defensive attitude, fanned by the eight draws in 14 league games, Molina’s approach was similar to Manchester United’s renowned coach Jose Mourinho, Indian coach Derrick Pereira observed.
“He is like Mourinho in the way he goes about his business,” Pereira, who formerly coached Pune FC and Salgaocar in the I-League said.
ATK beat Kerala Blasters on penalties to clinch their second title in three years with Molina tasting glory on his first season in charge.
In the process, the Spaniard emulated his fellow countryman Antonio Habas, who also won the trophy in the inaugural season of the ISL.
“A lot of coaches like to entertain people. And there are coaches, who like to play effective football. I think Molina is the second one. Like Mourinho, he will play according to the need of the hour and by the tournament format,” Pereira opined.
Molina earlier commented during the group stages of the tournament that six draws are like two wins, both fetching you six points, drawing mixed reaction from pundits.
In a tournament like ISL, where finishing in top-four assures you of playoff berth, the former Atletico Madrid custodian had always maintained his aim was to finish in the top half and nothing else.
“They were the most organised team,” Pereira said.
“They played to a plan and Molina knew what he was doing all along.”
From making nine changes in the semi-final second leg against Mumbai City FC to handing starts to many non-first team regulars in the first leg in Kolkata, many eyebrows were raised courtesy his uncanny approach.
His decision to play the taller Dani Mallo in goal in place of the in-form Debjit Majumder was surprising but proved to be a masterstroke as Mumbai’s tall attackers like Diego Forlan and Matias Defederico were thwarted in the semi-final.
“Mallo had the height to gather the aerial balls which could have been a threat keeping in mind Mumbai’s tall players,” former East Bengal coach Biswajit Bhattacharya said.
“His (Molina) strategy clicked and I think a lot of credit should go to Debjit for the way he played. For him the team won six-seven matches.
“What could have worked is the fact that Molina has also been a goalkeeper and spending so much time with a top keeper like him, Debjit learnt a lot,” Bhattacharya said.