ATK Mohun Bagan loses 3-1 to Kuala Lumpur City FC in AFC Cup Inter-Zonal semis

ATK Mohun Bagan crashed out of the AFC Cup after suffering a 3-1 loss against Kuala Lumpur City FC at the Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan on Wednesday.

Kuala Lumpur City FC players celebrate after winning the match.

Kuala Lumpur City FC players celebrate after winning the match. | Photo Credit: Debasish Bhaduri/The Hindu

ATK Mohun Bagan crashed out of the AFC Cup after suffering a 3-1 loss against Kuala Lumpur City FC at the Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan on Wednesday.

ATK Mohun Bagan's attacking frailties were badly exposed as it suffered a 1-3 defeat to Kuala Lumpur City FC in the inter-zone semifinal match of the AFC Cup here on Wednesday.

KL City FC's Brazilian captain Paulo Josue struck once (60th) and set up another for substitute Fakrul Aiman (90+3) with a brilliant free-kick.

Colombian forward Romel Morales came off the bench to hit the final nail in Mohun Bagan's coffin (90+6) at the Salt Lake Stadium here.

Mohun Bagan equalised in the 90th minute through substitute Fardin Ali Molla, but it later crumbled in front of home supporters.

This was Mohun Bagan's second successive elimination from the AFC Cup at the Inter-Zone semifinal stage. In 2021, they had endured a 0-6 humiliation against FC Nasaf.

KL City FC will now face Uzbekistan's PFC Sogdiana in the inter-zone play-off final.

Also Read: ATK Mohun Bagan 1-3 Kuala Lumpur City FC Highlights AFC Cup Inter-Zonal playoff: Romel, Fakrul score late to guide KL City to final 

It was a reality check for ATK Mohun Bagan coach Juan Ferrando ahead of the Indian Super League (ISL) as the Spaniard has failed to put together a good offensive and defensive unit after the departure of Roy Krishna, David Williams, Sandesh Jhingan and Tiri.

Just a few days ago, Mohun Bagan made a shock group stage exit from the Durand Cup.

The 1-3 scoreline in favour of the Malaysian outfit, however, did not exactly portray the Mariners' domination in the first half, especially in the first 15 minutes when they had a lion's share of possession.

But, they missed a flurry of chances with the striking lineup of Manvir Singh, Ashique Kuruniyan and Liston Colaco showing little coordination upfront, underlining the lack of firepower in the absence of Roy Krishna and David Williams.

In the 17th minute, Colaco went past a defender from the left after getting a pass from Kauko, but he slammed the ball straight to Azri Ghani.

Colaco continued his plight in front of the opposition goal as he wasted opportunities in the 36th and 42nd minutes.

Just when the home team's misery continued, Josue's screaming left-footer against the run of play put the Kuala Lumpur side ahead at the hour-mark, taking his goal count to three.

It was a perfect tactical display by their Croatian gaffer, who now has an all-win record in India, having won against Bengaluru FC and East Bengal as Johor Darul Ta'zim's coach previously.

It seemed all but over for Mohun Bagan, but the last six minutes of riveting action raised some hopes before their defence crumbled to pieces in front of excited 18,000-odd fans.

Mohun Bagan fans got a glimmer of hope in the dying minutes of regulation time when Bengal's Santosh Trophy hero Molla (90th) brilliantly scored from a rebound after being set up by Kauko.

But what followed was a harakiri by the Brendan Hamill-spearheaded defence that let in two goals in the space of two minutes of second-half stoppage time.

Having put his team ahead, the Brazilian Josue sent a perfect 35-yard free-kick as Fakrul made it 2-1 with a delectable header from a goalmouth melee.

The killer blow came in the final minute's action as Morales showed immense composure and fired in from the near-post as Mohun Bagan goalkeeper Kaith had no chance.

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