Manvir Singh doubled his side’s lead in the 68th minute. (ISL)
Manvir Singh doubled his side’s lead in the 68th minute. (ISL)

ISL: Manvir winner takes ATK Mohun Bagan to final

  • ATK Mohun Bagan, in its first year as a joint entity, reached the Indian Super League final with a 2-1 victory over NorthEast United.
By Dhiman Sarkar, Kolkata
UPDATED ON MAR 09, 2021 11:08 PM IST

It was an image that summed up the night. Almost. Gurjinder Kumar and Mashoor Shereef on their backs as Manvir Singh pulled away and put in a left-footer. All night he had been making those runs down the right but the pass wouldn’t come. When it did in the 68th, Singh cut in and scored the sixth goal of his breakout season. One which took ATK Mohun Bagan to their first final and coach Antonio Lopez Habas to his third - the Spaniard has never lost one in the Indian Super League (ISL) - where Mumbai City FC wait on Saturday.

“Can’t wait,” said Roy Krishna after 2-1 win on Tuesday which gave ATK Mohun Bagan a 3-2 aggregate win in the semi-final against NorthEast United.

Krishna didn’t score but came close thrice; the ball bouncing off the goal line in the 62nd. But if ATK Mohun Bagan were ahead - again through David Williams in the 38th minute - if they had 16 shots with seven on target, it was because of Krishna’s link-up play. “This guy just keeps giving,” said Williams.

It started in the third minute when Krishna found Javi Hernandez and continued through the half with Subhasish Bose, Lenny Rodrigues being beneficiaries before the assist for Williams. Typical of the well-drilled effort ATK Mohun Bagan put in, that move began with Pritam Kotal pressing Federico Gallego off the ball for Rodrigues who forwarded charge to Carl McHugh --- back in his midfield mop up role because Tiri and Sandesh Jhingan had resumed central defensive duties --- before Krishna found his long-time mate. Williams’ fifth goal of ISL7 came with the Australian shielding the ball from Ashutosh Mehta before opening his shoulder to bulge the netting with a right-footer. The last time Krishna essayed a pass that could have been a goal was deep in second-half stoppage time when Regin Michael blasted over from close.

Unbeaten in his 10 games as interim coach, Khalid Jamil traded defensive solidity for a targetman and chose Idrissa Sylla over Benjamin Lambot on Tuesday. It meant Shereef partnered Dylan Fox in central defence and it was the 28-year-old Indian Krishna targeted. A slew of chances ensued: Hernandez thudding into the upright, Williams sending a free header over, Bose firing a stinger into NorthEast goalie Subhasish Roy Choudhury, Krishna being denied by the goalie and shooting wide once. “Should have had three goals in the first half,” said Habas.

Barring Sylla going through in the 15th but shooting wide and a 22nd minute scramble after Arindam Bhattacharja swung at air while trying to clear, NorthEast weren’t in the game. But ATK Mohun Bagan were almost punished for their profligacy when VP Suhair’s shot was deflected into the same upright that had denied Hernandez. By the 56th, Krishna was exhorting his mates to wake up. Bhattacharja gifted NorthEast a goal messing up with a regulation ball; Suhair scoring with a diving header in the 74th minute. Machado’s missed penalty in the 81st after Bose had fouled Sylla and Mehta blasting over meant though it was hectic in the end, Jamil and his team’s Cinderella run would end. And that goal from Singh, off another Krishna assist, would make the difference.

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