In his 55 matches in charge of Indian football clubs so far, a Steve Coppell side had never scored four goals in a game. On Friday at the Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar, Coppell’s ATK and Delhi Dynamos threw caution to the wind in a breathtaking Super Cup quarterfinal contest. In the end, ATK prevailed 4-3.
Balwant Singh, who had scored just a solitary goal in the recently-concluded Indian Super League, has struck a rich vein of form in the Super Cup. The 32-year-old scored a superb hat-trick to take his tournament tally to four goals and helped his side book its place in the semifinals.
ATK played a 4-4-2 formation and was constantly caught out on the wings in the opening 20 minutes. A defensive error from John Johnson, who gave away a freekick for tugging Adria Carmona's jersey, led to Dynamos’ first goal of the game. Carmona whipped in an out-swinging cross from the left which Sajid Dhot thumped in into the far corner.
Coppell had identified Dynamos’ defensive vulnerabilities from which his team could benefit from in attack and his team punished the opposition thrice in the space of 11 first-half minutes, which had pushed its backline high up the pitch.
READ : ATK vs Delhi Dynamos - As it Happened
With Manuel Lanzarote threading the ball in between the lines, Balwant and Jayesh Rane were willing runners behind Dynamos’ defence. Pronay Halder won the ball in the centre circle and passed it to Lanzarote, who released Balwant with just the goalkeeper to beat. The former Mumbai City striker slotted it past Albino Gomes with ease to pull the scores level in the 23rd minute.
Dynamos center-backs Marti Crespi and Gianni Zuiverloon could do little to stop the flurry of ATK’s counter-attacks as Lanzarote added the second in the 28th minute. The attacking midfielder played a first-time pass for Jayesh, who raced down the right before squaring the ball into the middle. Lanzarote latched onto the ball, shifted it to his favoured left foot and curved the ball into the far right post and into the net.
Not often does one outdo Lanzarote when he scores a goal but this was Balwant’s night. He latched onto an upfield punt from Rane and he unleashed a thunderous strike which thudded against the crossbar before nestling in.
Dynamos gave itself a way back into the game when it pulled one back immediately from the restart. Lallianzuala Chhangte’s deflected cross from the left was stabbed home by striker Daniel Lalhimpuia inside the six-yard area.
There wasn’t much goal-mouth action after that as ATK went into the break with a 3-2 lead.
Six minutes after the restart, the combination of Lanzarote, Jayesh and Balwant combined to strike again. With Lanzarote pulling Dynamos’ left side into the middle, he released Jayesh a free reign down the flank. He squared the ball across goal and Balwant completed his hat-trick on the slide.
ATK sitting with a 4-2 lead pulled out Lanzarote in the 68th minute which reduced its threat on the break. The decision could have proved costly as Dynamos got themselves back in through Nandakumar Sekar’s deflected strike right before the last quarter of the game.
Chhangte had an opportunity when Tebar played him through the middle but Andre Bikey closed him down to deny him a shot at goal.
ATK’s veteran defender Arnab Mondal, who came in for Johnson at the end, saw out the lead to seal a thrilling 4-3 win for the Kolkata side.
ATK will now face the winner of the quarterfinal between Chennaiyin FC and NorthEast United FC.