ATK Mohun Bagan qualified for the knockout stages of the AFC Cup after a nail-biting finish to their final group stage match against reigning Bangladesh Premier League winners Bashundhara Kings (BSK).
With only one team eligible to qualify from Group D, it was the Kolkata side that managed to move a step closer towards realising their AFC Cup dreams.
ATK Mohun Bagan drew with Bashundhara Kings after a comeback equaliser by David Williams in the second half to Jonathan Fernandes’ goal, thus going unbeaten throughout the group stage.
With the absence of their new signing and playmaker Hugo Boumous due to a second yellow card in their previous game against Maziya where he made an assist coming right off the bench, the Mariners were no less equipped and showcased resilience and toughness.
The first half of the match saw a missed opportunity from Liston who shot wide in front of an open net and regrettably could not put ATKMB in a leading position.
A free-kick in the 25th minute went straight into the wall of the Kings and the men in green and maroon kept trying to get into their rival’s box only to be disappointed by a goal from the Bangladeshi side in the 28th minute, courtesy of Jonathan Fernandes getting the better of Amrinder and putting the ball at the back of the net.
Another couple of frustrating denial of points followed with Roy Krishna and Liston failing to score. However, ATK Mohun Bagan did not lose hope and kept looking for chances and finding spaces.
The first half ended with Bashundhara Kings reduced to 10 men due to the referee brandishing a red card to Sushanto Tripura after a clash between Subhasish and Tripura which also saw a few other yellow cards to players from both teams.
With one man down, Bashundhara tried to keep up their lead, earning a free-kick too which unfortunately yielded no result.
The set piece was awarded after Tangri being showed a yellow for putting his hand on an advancing Robinho’s face.
It was finally Liston Colaco in the 62nd minute who outpaced Ghosh to assist Williams who netted an equaliser— a much needed goal that put the Mariners at level with the Kings on the field, and at a higher position in the Group D rankings.
The remaining minutes saw quite a few changes as Bashundhara Kings and later ATK Mohun Bagan both subbed on a few players, with BSK in a desperate attempt to change their fate.
The pressure was down till the last minute. However, with the whistle blowing and the match ending, the points for ATK Mohun Bagan and Bashundhara Kings stood at 7 and 5 respectively, naturally allowing the former to go through the group stages into the inter-zonal semi-finals.
It is a proud and commendable feat for ATK Mohun Bagan who have deservedly managed to book a berth in the inter-zonal semi-finals with their determination and guidance from coach Antonio Lopez Habas.
Follow our website for more updates on Indian football.