ATK Mohun Bagan wins the battle of nerves to defeat Hyderabad on penalties
ATK Mohun Bagan qualified for their second Indian Super League final, as they defeated Hyderabad on penalties in the second leg of the second semi-final. After the match ended in a goalless stalemate, the Mariners won 4-3 on spot-kicks.
Given that his team did not look too convincing in the first leg, ATK Mohun Bagan head coach Juan Ferrando made a couple of changes to his starting XI. Glan Martins and Kiyan Nassiri were handed starts, with Puitea and Liston Colaco dropping to the bench.
On the other hand, Hyderabad head coach Manolo Marquez made only one change to his team. Nigerian marksman Bartholomew Ogbeche featured from the start in Kolkata, whereas to accommodate him, Spanish youngster Javi Siverio was dropped to the bench.
Although the Mariners had the better start to the first half, the first major chance of the game fell to the Nizams. After receiving the ball from Mohammad Yasir, Ogbeche found Borje Herrera with a pass but the former Las Palmas player could not keep his shot on target.
The Ogbeche-Yasir pair combined to cause Ferrando’s defense a few headaches early on. The Nigerian was the provider this time around, while the chance fell for Yasir. But the ultimate result was the same, as the latter’s shot was saved by the Mariners’ custodian, Vishal Kaith.
The hosts’ first major opportunity came in the 18th minute of the match. Subhasish Bose launched a perfect cross into the box which found Manvir Singh unmarked, but the attacker could not keep his header on target.
Ferrando’s team were on the attack once again just five minutes later. Unlike the previous chance, Manvir was well-composed this time around as he wriggled past defenders before launching a shot which went past Gurmeet Singh under the Nizams’ goal, but the shot struck the crossbar and stayed out.
In the 26th minute, it was Roca’s team’s turn to squander a chance. Yasir did well to beat his marker, Asish Rai, before launching a shot. The ball took a deflection before finding Halicharan Narzary, whose effort was not on target.
The next new exchanges did not produce any clear-cut openings, although the Mariners almost broke the deadline in the 57th minute. Rai delivered a superb cross into the box which found Hugo Boumous lurking, and while the Frenchman did well to keep his volley on target, Gurmeet was up to the task for Hyderabad.
The visitors were mostly dormant in the second half until a rare freekick gave them a chance out of the blue. After being brought down by Subhasish, Yasir himself took the shot, but it was nowhere near on target.
In the 78th minute, Hyderabad had an even better chance when Sahil Tavor brilliantly snatched possession from Lenny Rodrigues in midfield. He then played a pass for Akash Mishra, who did everything perfectly except getting the shot in.
The biggest chance of the match arrived for ATK Mohun Bagan in the 82nd minute. From a freekick, Petratos launched an inch-perfect delivery which found Slavko Damjanovic lurking, but the Montenegrin centre-back could not guide his header on target.
However, that was not the last chance of regulation time as the Mariners had another opportunity later on. It was a corner this time and Federico Gallego did well to find Carl McHugh with his delivery, which the Irish midfielder could only find the crossbar with his header.
Ferrando’s team had completely taken charge of the game by then, and in extra time, it took them only 8 minutes to launch a dangerous attack. Colaco made a darting run down the left flank before finding Lalrinliana Hnamte, but his shot went narrowly wide.
The next few minutes saw the home team nearly open the scoring on two occasions. At first, Gallego’s pass almost found Colaco unmarked until Nikhil Poojary made a superb clearance. It was soon followed by another clearance when Colaco himself launched a cross and very nearly found Petratos inside the box.
Unlike the tie between Bengaluru and Mumbai City, the penalty shootout did not roll into extra time on this occasion as players from both teams missed chances. Siverio saw his shot saved by Kaith, while Ogbeche’s shot struck the crossbar. While Brendan Hamill dragged his shot wide for the Mariners, it did not matter as they won the game 4-3 on penalties.
In the final, ATK Mohun Bagan will be taking on long-time rivals, Bengaluru. The match will take place at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Goa on Saturday.