ATK defeated Bengaluru FC 3-1 in the second leg semi-final to storm into the final with an aggregate score of 3-2
Two goals from David Williams and one goal from captain Roy Krishna propelled ATK into the final
ATK will face Chennaiyin FC in the final on 14 March. Chennaiyin defeated FC Goa to reach the final
The real ATK had been missing for a while but on the most important night the club and their players finally found their bearings as Antonio Habas’ side scripted a sensational comeback to reach the Indian Super League (ISL) 2019-20 final.
After losing the first leg away from home to Bengaluru FC and despite going a goal down inside five minutes of the second leg at the Salt Lake Stadium, three goals from Roy Krishna and David Williams helped ATK to overturn the deficit and storm their way into the final with a 3-2 aggregate score.
Habas return to club with expensive deals for Roy Krishna and David Williams has given a separate identity to ATK this season. An identity of ruthless attack, free-flowing football and truckloads of goals, in fact 33 of them in 18 league games but something has been amiss for the club in last few weeks. That 1-3 defeat to Chennaiyin FC when ATK were gunning for the top spot in the table broke something somewhere.
The Kolkata club were put on a winless streak with their last victory coming exactly a month before Sunday’s win, but things did fell in the place for Krishna and his boys against Bengaluru in front of over 50,000 supporters.
Right back Prabir Das, who has been a revelation at ATK this season, found the top gear after straying away in Bengaluru. Krishna and Williams, who were experiencing a barren run in front of the goal, found the scoring touch. And it was these three players who played their part to the perfection in helping the club mount a comeback.
It was Williams who consistently dropped deep to see more of the ball in starting minutes with the opponents on top. His work rate was the crucial element behind ATK’s equaliser as he released Das with his through ball on the right flank which eventually led to the cross for Krishna to score. Williams then earned the penalty in the second half and scored before heading another beautiful pin-point cross from Das past Gurpreet Singh Sandhu.
Three goals were always going to be too much for Bengaluru who are generally shy in front of opponent’s goal but they definitely had some opportunity which they squandered. ATK goalie Arindam Bhattacharya was guilty on both occasions Bengaluru scored in the tie but the 30-year-old redeemed himself in the last 20 minutes by making three crucial saves including a one-on-one with Kevaughn Frater and a header from his own defender John Johnson.
Bengaluru pay for adjustments (or lack of it)
We have seen Ashique Kuruniyan play as a striker, No 10, left winger, left-back but Carles Cuadrat showed another side of the young Indian footballer by playing him on the right flank. And the move did pay the dividend with Bengaluru’s only goal coming from his boot. But it was one of the rare adjustments to work for the Spanish manager on the night where his forced changes, substitutions and lack of it cost his side big time. The Blues were without Nishu Kumar, who was serving a suspension, and injured Albert Serran. Both players had a major role in making Bengaluru the meanest defence in the league, and in a crucial semi-final tie their absence was felt strongly.
The gaping hole that Serran left was somewhat filled by Rahul Bheke but that meant compromising on the right side of the defence, and while Suresh Wangjam put in an admirable display, the backline never looked the same. On the left side, Francisco Borges, also known as Nili, turned out to be a liability against a marauding Das. Though the Spaniard made the assist for Bengaluru, he had very little to offer going forward and was often left in the dust by ATK’s full-back Das.
Nili left the pitch in 84th minute, a bit too late. Cuadrat could have tried to fix the damage by ringing in changes but he was found to be clueless. The influential Ashique was subbed off in 64th minute for the ineffective Udanta Singh and that substitution gave ATK a lot of spring in their step. A half-fit Sunil Chhetri was completely anonymous on the pitch but the manager failed to take the big call throughout the match and in the end he paid for it.
The mega final
ATK will face off Chennaiyin FC in the final on 14 March at the Fatorda in Goa. We all know what happened in their previous clash but ATK would hope for a fresh start in the final. For Chennaiyin, the final was out of question after the disastrous start to the season but miracles are part of this beautiful sport. Their road to the final is also nothing less than a miracle and may be it’s time to add the icing on the cake.