ATK Mohun Bagan defeats Bengaluru to win maiden ISL trophy
The wait for the Kolkata giants finally ends here as the ATK Mohun Bagan side finally wins their first-ever major club honor by claiming the prestigious 2022-23 Indian Super League championship. Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium of Fatorda witnessed a crushing footballing contest between the two strongest sides of the season as it ended in the favor of the Green and Maroon Brigade by 4-3 on penalties.
Juan Ferrando and his boys were criticized for their consistent inconsistency throughout the season but have stunned everyone to end up on the champions’ podium. They have pulled it off after crushing an eleven-match unbeaten streak of Bengaluru who missed out to give a befitting finish to their fairytale journey from the shortest distance.
Dimitri Petratos was the star of the night for the eventual champions as his two penalty goals (14′ & 85′) and a crucial conversion during the shootout kept their spirits high all the time. Sunil Chhetri’s 45th-minute penalty brought the Blues back into the game while a marvelous headed goal from Roy Krishna in the 75th minute enlightened the hopes of West Block Blues at one point.
Juan Ferrando made only a single change in the ATKMB lineup which thumped the defending champions Hyderabad in the penultimate round. The former BFC phenomenon Ashique Kuruniyan made a surprising comeback after missing out on the semi-final stages and directly barged into the Mariners’ starting eleven.
Meanwhile, Bengaluru’s Scottish gaffer Simon Grayson went on to name an unchanged lineup aiming to replicate their heroics of knocking out Mumbai City. Despite the availability of the likes of Alan Costa and Parag Shrivas, BFC once again placed their money on the Brazilian birthday boy Bruno Ramires to make the back-three defense.
The celebrations erupted at Fatorda Stadium three hours prior to the kick-off as fans of both clubs turned up in large numbers for the Final Carnival. The BFC captain Gurpreet Singh Sandhu won the coin toss against the opposition skipper Pritam Kotal and opted to go for the first kick of the play. ATK Mohun Bagan made their second ISL final appearance with traditional Green and Maroon kits while the opposition graced the battlefield donning away all-white colors.
West Block Blues suffered an early crisis as their striking sensation Sivashakthi Narayanan suffered a nose blow after an aerial collision with Carl McHugh and Aashique Kuruniyan. The departure of the 22-year-old on a stretcher in the very first minute forced the legendary BFC striker Sunil Chhetri to barge into the final action.
Ashique then went on to hand another major blow to the BFC spirits as his actions indirectly helped the Mariners to earn the first goal-scoring opportunity of the match. On his defensive duty during the corner kick, Roy Krishna committed a blunderous aerial challenge and gave away an early penalty through handball. The spot-kick was taken by the Australian forward Dimitri Petratos who made no mistake to blast it into the net and firing ATKMB ahead in the 14th minute.
The Karnataka Blues’ first key attempt on the opposition goal came in the 25th minute when Vishal Kaith turned down Javi Hernandez’s incredible free-kick attempt from 30 yards away. We saw multiple BFC knights indulging in a heated argument with the referee Harish Kundu after his refusal to take action against Pritam Kotal’s controversial challenge on Krishna inside the danger area.
The veteran Fijian striker finally managed to attain a spot-kick in the injury time of first-half after attracting a punishable challenge from Subhasish Bose. Chhetri stepped up to take the penalty owing to the inability of Krishna and the 38-year-old successfully converted it into a breakthrough. The penalty conversion turned out to be the final action of the first-half saga as the play halted for the half-time break on an equivalent scoreline of 1-1.
The Spanish general Ferrando seemed unhappy with the midfield unit’s first-half performance and also replaced Glan Martins with Lalrinliana Hnamte. Meanwhile, Grayson intended to instate an attacking approach by bringing in a midfielder in place of a central defender to switch back-five to a back-four defensive line.
Just like the earlier half, the initial 30 minutes of the second half also witnessed a neck-to-neck contest where the offensive units of both sides struggled to find an open-play goal. However, the BFC attack finally found a crack into the opposition defense through Roshan Naorem Singh’s corner-kick which got a perfectly headed finish from Krishna. The league’s fourth all-time top-scorer registered his 42nd ISL career goal but refused to celebrate against his former club.
Just when the West Block Blues were assured of their comfort, Pablo Perez’s foul on Kiyan Nassiri right at the edge of the box was flagged as the third penalty of the night. Petratos once again took the direct kick and outwitted Gurpreet to score a pivotal equalizing goal for the Mariners in the 85th minute.
The scoreline remained unaffected for the rest of the regulation time and 30 minutes of Extra Time as the saga then headed towards the penalty shootout to break the deadlock.
The Kolkata-based outfit got a flying start in the shootout after converting all three chances; however, the Blues missed their third kick and gave away the lead. Bruno Ramires could not deliver it on the occasion of his 29th birthday as the ATKMB guardian Vishal Kaith blocked his attempt to stay alive in the game. Pablo Perez who took the final kick for Bengaluru failed to even keep it on the target which eventually ensured the Mariners’ claim on the trophy.
ATKMB owner Mr Sanjeev Goenka also made an anticipated announcement during their post-match celebration regarding the removal of ‘ATK’ from the crest. The Green and Maroon will now be gracing their forthcoming journey with the new name ‘Mohun Bagan Super Giants’.