ISL: Michael Soosairaj shines again

On Saturday, Michael Soosairaj scored a stunning goal and followed it with an impressive celebration as his ATK side thumped Mumbai City to jump to the top of the ISL points table.

Michael Soosairaj’s goal doubled ATK’s advantage against Mumbai City FC in the Hero ISL at Mumbai Football Arena.   -  ISL Media

Michael Soosairaj’s cartwheel celebration behind the Mumbai City goalpost, following his first and ATK's second goal in a 2-0 win, said a lot about the freedom given to the players by coach Antonio Habas to express themselves.

Coming off the bench in the 34th minute as replacement for first goalscorer Pronay Halder, the 25-year-old showcased individual skill and clever decision-making.

Talking to the official broadcaster after the match, Soosairaj was asked about the advice given by gaffer Habas when he was being brought on. “The coach asked me to just focus on my game," he said. "He told me my role was to defend, but gave me the okay [approval] to do what I wanted when I had the ball in front.”

The goal may have been a move played several times in his mind; the cartwheel celebration was as instinctive as his scoop to the right corner -- turning his body in time to ensure the ball travelled the distance. “I always used to try this in practice. I cut it (the ball), bend, curve the ball. It is my favourite style," he remarked.

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There was no way for club captain and custodian Amrinder Singh to read his rival’s mind, the next best thing humanly possible was to react --  flinging himself across to get his hands behind the ball, which instead did its own thing, looping beyond blocking range to lodge gently into the net.

The home team players around Soosaraj were left with no answers when the scorer ran into space behind the post and burst into celebration.

Habas could not deny his substitute a moment in the sun and kept a straight face to Soosairaj’s acrobatics. Since the switch in sides from Chennai City FC in I-League and Jamshedpur FC in ISL, Soosairaj has found a place in 11 games so far this season, scored twice, and is shaping into another weapon in a strike force.

The coach focused on what went right on a night of celebration for travelling ATK fans. “I am happy with the performance and discipline. I will admit Mumbai (City) had opportunities to score goals in the second 45 minutes, but we created chances as well.”

Converting the opportunities is what separated ATK from MCFC. Modou Sougou, Mohammed Larbi, Diego Carlos got within sight of target for the hosts, fired wide or into Arindam Bhattacharja under the bar.