A Leading show from Prabir Das, Arindam Bhattacharya, and David Williams helped ATK Finish the comeback against Bengaluru FC.
A 1-0 deficit from the first leg and down a goal at the opening five minutes against mathematically the best defence in the league, ATK found themselves in the foot of a hill to climb in the Salt Lake Stadium in the second leg of the Indian Super League (ISL) play-off clash against Bengaluru FC.
However, a sensational performance from Prabir and clinical finishing from Roy Krishna and David Williams got them on the line. On the other hand, Bengaluru FC paid the cost for a passive strategy and woeful finishing in front of goal.
The defending champions started the match on the front foot, with Ashique Kuruniyan getting an early objective. Then they went on to dominate another 20 minutes or so, with the Indian global running into distances and wreaking havoc on the right flank.
Despite conceding on the counter and permitting Ashique to break many times in the first quarter of this match, ATK stuck to keeping a high line and attacking in numbers. This decision could have been looked back at as a rash one, had the Blues transformed in the last third. But the absence of prolificacy in the visitors provided the hosts the assurance to surge forward.
As anticipated, Bengaluru lined up with a compact back-line to ensure Edu Garcia and Javi Hernandez were not able to discover openings to put the ball behind the back-line for the strikers to chase. ATK hence had to change their attention to creating chances from the broad places.
Suresh Wangjam did an excellent job at maintaining Michael Soosairaj silent as he did in the first leg. The onus to direct deliveries in Williams and Roy hence fell on Prabir on the right flank.
It took an inch-perfect delivery from Prabir plus an intelligent run-in from Roy for ATK to pull level at the first half.
However, the comeback bells weren’t ringing loudly at half-time, with both teams competing equally in the first 45 minutes. The teams’ approach to another 45 minutes changed the game.
They were happy to allow ATK to possess the ball as long as they weren’t forcing it vertically from the center of the pitch. On the counter, Bengaluru lacked the conviction to make it count and were throwing away possibilities rather cheaply.
Right after the hour mark, Williams made clever use of a rookie error from Suresh within the box to win his side a penalty and bury it to take them a target closer to the comeback. Cuadrat reacted to this by taking off Ashique — that had been playing one of his best matches of the season — for Udanta Singh, who had been enduring a dry spell.
Prabir returned to haunt the Bengaluru back-line, now using a cross for Williams to go home and finish the comeback.
ATK’s third goal was bound to change the dynamics of this game, with Bengaluru currently pushing for the critical aim. This time, the hosts turned into the man between the sticks to see them through.
He produced some high saves, including a one-on-one against Kervaughn Frater, a header from Erik Paartalu and a deflected header from John Johnson, which might have handed his former team for the tie.
Arindam turned up when needed to maintain a deserved chunk of charge as ATK finished the phenomenal comeback.
At the end of the night, the team that thought in overturning the result made it happen through perseverance, patience and trusting the procedure. The team that thought they could shield a one-goal advantage paid the cost for the passive strategy.