ATK Mohun Bagan (ATKMB) made history by winning its first Indian Super League (ISL) title after clinching a nerve-wracking 4-3 victory on penalties against Bengaluru FC (BFC) at the PJN Stadium in Fatorda here on Saturday.
Dimitrios Petratos scored a brace for ATKMB, while Sunil Chhetri and Roy Krishna got on the scoresheet for BFC to keep the score 2-2 after extra-time.
The Blues suffered a setback in the first minute after losing its second-highest scorer and talented forward, Sivasakthi Narayanan. He suffered a nasty injury as Carl McHugh’s elbow met his jaw, which left the youngster dazed and unable to continue even after medical attention.
The Bengaluru stands were quiet as Sivasakthi was stretchered off the pitch but that quickly changed to a stentorian roar after Sunil Chhetri appeared on the sidelines to replace the youngster.
Both teams displayed positive attacking football in the opening minutes of the first-half, especially through the flanks. The full-backs and wingers of both teams tried to exploit the spaces behind the defence, with early runs.
The incessant attacks from the Mariners bore fruit in the 13th minute when former ATKMB player Roy Krishna handled the ball inside his box in a bid to clear the ball with his head. The referee pointed straight to the spot, despite protests from the BFC players. Amidst a barrage of expletives from the Bengaluru stands, Petratos stepped up and converted his penalty by finding the bottom-left corner. That silenced the BFC faithful, but not for long.
Simon Grayson’s men had the chance to equalise in the 25th minute as Javi Hernandez attempted a bicycle kick from a Krishna cross. His shot was blocked by Subhasish but the danger was not over. A minute later, Sandesh Jhingan towered over everyone and headed the ball towards the goal from a cross but missed the target.
With three additional minutes given at the end of the first-half, Juan Ferrando’s men thought they had successfully defended their lead but conceded a penalty in the dying minutes. Krishna atoned for his previous mistake as he rushed Subhasish Bose into making a clearance. The ATKMB fullback completely missed the ball and brought down Krishna with a tackle instead.
There was hardly any doubt as Chhetri stepped up to take the spot-kick. A personification of calmness, he took a short run-up and slotted the ball in the bottom-left corner, sending Kaith to the wrong side.
Starting the second-half with a 1-1 scoreline, it was the Mariners who started on the front foot. The Petratos-Boumous combination proved difficult for the Blues defence, but they held on to not concede early in the second 45.
As the Bengaluru players were pegged back into their own half, there were signs of a big chance coming for the Mariners, and it did in the 61st minute. Second-half substitute Liston Colaco’s rocket of a shot from distance forced a brilliant save from Gurpreet, and lucky for Bengaluru, Petratos failed to tuck the ball into the empty net on the rebound.
The tempo dropped for a while as both teams resorted to long balls, trying to catch out the opponent’s defence. But the course of the match changed in the 78th minute.
In a spine-tingling moment for Krishna, he scored from a BFC corner. Naorem Roshan Singh’s delivery was flicked to the far-post by a Bruno Ramires header, and Krishna showed his poaching skills by being there in the right place at the right time to head the ball inside the net.
A Krishna winner for BFC against ATKMB would have been the perfect script, but the Mariners kept their ship steady and did not let the sails drop. Ferrando showed pro-activeness by bringing on Kiyan Nassiri and Federico Gallego.
In the 83rd minute, his men were back in the game after Kiyan was fouled inside the box by Pablo Perez. The referee pointed to the spot, and ATKMB got its second penalty of the match.
Petratos showed guts as he went in the same direction as his earlier spot-kick, but such was the power and accuracy of the shot that Gurpreet couldn’t save it despite guessing right yet again. The Australian scored his 12th league goal, becoming the joint-highest scorer with Odisha FC’s Diego Mauricio and East Bengal FC’s Cleiton Silva.
BFC’s Prabir Das denied his former side a late winner with a fantastic goalline clearance. Manvir Singh made a delicious run along the right flank, beat his marker, and crossed the ball inside the box, which was steered on target by Petratos. Gurpreet was beaten, but Prabir was there as the last line of defence to clear the effort.
Rohit Kumar, Krishna and Manvir came close to scoring over the two periods of extra-time but could not take their chances. The best chance came for Petratos in the 119th minute. His shot swung wickedly mid-air and slipped from Gurpreet’s grasp. Time froze for the BFC keeper after losing the ball as he watched it roll inches past the net and out for a corner.
In the shootout, both teams scored their first two penalties. Alan Costa and Krishna found the net for BFC, while Petratos and Colaco were on target for ATKMB. The turning point came when Kaith saved Ramires’ penalty. The pressure was on Kiyan to score the next for the lead, but the youngster kept his nerve to find the net. Chhetri and Manvir converted their respective penalties for BFC and ATKMB to continue the shootout. Perez, who was next, had to score to keep his team in the equation but blasted his effort above the bar, leading to a 4-3 win for the Mariners.
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