Javier Hernandez has been brilliant in ATK’s midfield…
The Spanish head coach had a strong squad to choose from, with a good mix of foreigners and Indians. ATK’s chances were boosted by former Wellington Phoenix duo Roy Krishna and David Williams who were both exceptional performers throughout the season.
Amid all the praise for the attackers and a strong backline, the role of Javier Hernandez in ATK’s campaign is underrated. The 30-year-old Spanish midfielder has only missed one game under Habas this season and has been a consistent performer throughout. Only Krishna and Pritam Kotal have started more matches than Hernandez.
On Saturday, Hernandez got the chance to be the centre of attention for the first time this season. He’s been busy pulling the strings and helping out his teammates until the final but he opened his account and scored two goals that helped ATK get their hands on the trophy.
In the tense final against Chennaiyin, it was Hernandez who started and ended the contest with two neat finishes past goalkeeper Vishal Kaith. In the 10th minute he struck a sweet half-volley into the ground and the bounce beat the keeper fair and square.
Nerijus Valskis scored a goal in the second half to set up a tense end to the game, with ATK leading 2-1. However, Hernandez made a good run in behind the Chennaiyin defence to latch onto a lob from Pronay Halder and what followed was a well-placed strike into the net. With Krishna picking up an injury, ATK needed runs from the midfield and Hernandez was there to get the job done when needed.
Most of Hernandez’s work for the team tends to go unnoticed. Krishna’s assist for Hernandez’ goal in the final means only the Fijian striker (6) is ahead of the Spanish midfielder (5) in the assists’ chart for ATK. He has made the most number of passes (730) and tackles (87) for ATK this season. His aggressive tackles have also led to him being the ATK player who has committed the most fouls.
Among ATK’s midfielders, Hernandez has the most number of interceptions, shots and touches. He has been a true maestro in the centre of the park and his efforts, albeit not easily noticeable, has contributed heavily to ATK’s success in the ISL.