Raja scores winning penalty to make ATK two-time champions
Atlético de Kolkata beat Kerala Blasters FC 4-3 on penalties in front of more than 54,000 fans at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Kochi on Sunday to win the final of the Hero Indian Super League for a second time. The match ended 1-1 in normal time courtesy of a Mohammed Rafi goal in the 37th minute for Kerala and a Henrique Sereno goal in the 44th minute for ATK. Jewel Raja hit the winning penalty for Jose Molina’s men after Cedric Hengbart missed for Kerala to set up a 4-3 shootout win for Kolkata.
Kerala had the first big chance of the match in the 10th minute after Kervens Belfort set up Rafi for a shot on goal with an intelligent pass. The Indian striker’s side-footed finish was on target but Tiri put in a brilliant sliding tackle to get a block in and deny the Blasters.
The visitors’ first clear cut opportunity came five minutes later with Iain Hume and Helder Postiga linking up to good effect. Hume played ATK’s marquee man through on goal only for the former Portuguese international to fire wide of the target with his weaker left foot.
Kolkata had another shot on goal moments later after a Lalrindika Ralte cross from the left found Sameehg Doutie in the box. The South African’s shot from an acute angle was straight at Kerala’s goalkeeper Graham Stack, who made a regulation save at the near post.
Postiga then had two chances in quick succession around about the 22nd-minute mark but the Portuguese star failed to hit the target on both occasions. The trend continued for ATK with Ralte shooting high and wide from just outside the penalty area soon after. Kolkata finally managed to get a shot on target in the 35th minute through Postiga but Stack had his near post covered again to make the save.
The hosts broke the deadlock eight minutes before the break from a corner. Mehtab Hossain delivered a quality ball into the area for Rafi, who rose high and produced an emphatic header to give his side the lead as the stadium erupted with a roar of approval.
ATK weren’t behind for long, however, equalising from a corner of their own in the 44th minute. Doutie put in an inch-perfect corner to find Sereno, who outmuscled Sandesh Jhingan before heading the ball into the back of the net to make it 1-1 at half-time.
Both sides struggled to create any proper openings at the start of the second period with the first shot on target coming in the 64th minute and going Kerala’s way. Duckens Nazon exhibited some nice flashes of individual brilliance to bamboozle two ATK defenders before seeing his goal-bound attempt from range saved comfortably by Debjit Majumder in goal.
Kolkata responded with a deflected shot from range through Postiga, which forced Stack into conceding a corner. The next chance of the game fell Kerala’s way as Nazon collected a loose ball on the edge of the penalty box. The Haitian unleashed a powerful left-footed shot on goal that was wide of the target.
The last chance of the match in normal time belonged to Kolkata after some brilliant teamwork nearly helped them find a late winner with Ralte putting in a dangerous low cross from the left across the six-yard box. None of Kolkata’s attackers managed to get on the end of the cross though as it ended 1-1 after 90 minutes.
The visitors had the best opportunity in extra-time in the 110th minute with the game getting increasingly stretched. Ralte again delivered a good low cross into the six-yard box from the left but no one was on hand to apply the finishing touch.
Belfort had the Blasters’ biggest chance of extra-time eight minutes later. However, the Haitian’s left-footed attempt was blocked by Raja as it ended all square after the additional 30 minutes, meaning penalties were required to separate the two teams.
Antonio German converted the first penalty of the nigh for Kerala while Hume missed Kolkata’s first to give the Blasters the advantage. Belfort consolidated Kerala’s advantage with a confident strike from the spot before Doutie scored ATK’s first spot-kick of the night to make it 2-1 in the shootout. Elhadji Ndoye then stepped up for Kerala and shot over the crossbar.
Kolkata captain Borja Fernandez then stepped up to the plate and converted successfully to even things out. Mohammed Rafique was next for Kerala and made no mistake with a composed finish into the corner. Javi Lara also converted for ATK in confident fashion to make it 3-3. Blasters’ skipper Hengbart then missed Kerala’s second of the night before Raja hit the winning penalty to make Kolkata two-time champions of the Hero ISL.
Club award: Atlético de Kolkata
Amul Fittest Player of the Match: Kervens Belfort
DHL Winning Pass of the Match: Duckens Nazon
Maruti Suzuki Swift Moment of the Match: Debjit Majumder
ISL Emerging Player of the Match: Lalrindika Ralte
Hero of the Match: Henrique Sereno Fonseca