ATK Mohun Bagan win ISL title on a windy day in Fatorda
Despite Bengaluru FC's shining form, it was the Mariners who persevered and went over the line to taste glory.
As the eagles soared over a fairly filled-up Fatorda stadium in Margao, Goa, ATK Mohun Bagan persevered and clinched their first Indian Super League title after defeating Bengaluru FC 4-3 in a penalty shootout.
After extra time, the score had reached an impasse of two goals a piece, which compelled both sides to go into another penalty shootout to decide who would lift the trophy.
The first half primarily had three decisive moments. First, Bengaluru FC were dealt with a heavy blow early on as Irishman Carl McHugh's towering elbow met with youngster Sivasakthi's jaw. Hence, skipper Sunil Chhetri came on within the first minute of the game, much earlier than his recent appearances off the bench.
Second, in the 13th minute, Roy Krishna seemed to handle the ball inside the box as referee Harish Kundu pointed to the spot. Sure as ever, Dimitri Petratos slotted the ball in the bottom left corner. Bengaluru goalie Gurpreet Singh Sandhu did choose the correct side to dive to, but the shot was just that powerful.
After conceding the lead, Simon Grayson's men looked shaky and nervy on the ball as ghosts of the past began to show up for the Blues. Glimpses of hope did crop up, case in point being Javi Hernandez's direct freekick which prompted Vishal Kaith to make a brilliant save.
There was a penalty shout from the Blues camp when Roy Krishna was allegedly brought down by Pritam Kotal inside the box, but Kundu didn't agree. Third, in the dying embers of the first half, Krishna was brought down by Subasish Bose inside the box, and hence a penalty was awarded to Bengaluru FC. Chhetri stepped up, took a step, and scored.
The second half saw a slow start from both sides, but ATK Mohun Bagan, like most of their season, were missing golden opportunities to take the lead. In the 78th minute, Krishna literally rose to the ocassion and headed in the ball deftly into the top right corner, thereby giving Bengaluru the lead for the first time in the match.
As fate, or perhaps the footballing gods, would have it, ATKMB won themselves another penalty. The Bengaluru FC players perhaps listened to the Selena Gomez song 'Can't keep my hands to myself' too often, as this time as well, another Blue in Pablo Perez was guilty of a handball offence. Petratos, as sure as he was the first time, equalised.
The match went into extra time which saw both sides making a flurry of changes, perhaps preparing for the impending penalty shootout. Bengaluru had more of the chances to finish the game off in the extra time, with Roy Krishna's toe-poke, Udanta Singh's header, and Rohit Kumar's long-ranger, all missing the mark.
Goalie Gurpreet almost gifted ATKMB the title after the ball slipped from his hands after a swerving shot from Petratos confounded the custodian.
The match eventually went into penalties where misses from Bruno Ramires and Pablo Perez assured ATK Mohun Bagan their maiden ISL title.