David Williams: Semifinal goal against Bengaluru a career highlight for me

David Williams had a memorable debut season in India, helping ATK FC clinch the Hero Indian Super League (Hero ISL) 2019-20 trophy. The Australian striker was an integral piece of Antonio Lopez Habas' title-winning team throughout the season, particularly proving his worth in the semifinal second leg clash against Bengaluru FC. He almost singlehandedly turned the tie on its head and secured his team a spot in the final - a performance he holds in the highest regard despite having put in several memorable displays over the course of his illustrious career.

Heading into the second half of their second leg semi-final clash against the Blues, ATK were looking down the barrel as they found themselves 2-1 down on aggregate. With their opponents having the luxury of an away goal, ATK needed to score at-least twice to progress to the final – an uphill task to say the least against the tightest defence in the league. Up stepped Williams and scored twice, the first from the penalty spot and the second with a thumping header past Gurpreet Singh Sandhu from the edge of the box.

Picking out the header, which sealed the fate of the tie and ATK’s eventual progression to the final at the Fatorda, as one of the defining moments of his decade-long professional career. “For me, the moment of scoring that third goal (in the semifinal) was one of the most exciting times in my football career,” he said during an interaction with Anant Tyagi during the fifth episode of Let’s Football Live.

Remembering the crunch contest in front of the home fans in Kolkata, the ATK frontman added, “We knew what we had to do. There was going to be a big crowd and I think every player worked off the crowd. They got us through in the end. I did say to the boys, this crowd is going to help us when we feel down, they are our extra man, and I just said don't let this crowd go quiet. Bengaluru were such a good defensive side, but we put three past them.”

During the session, the Aussie also discussed an array of subjects, including how the ATK move came about, his time at the club, his teammates and more. Here are some of the highlights:

Moving to India in search of new pastures

Prior to his move to the Hero ISL, Williams was with Australian outfit Wellington Phoenix alongside Roy Krishna and Armando Sosa Pena. After a very fruitful season up front for Wellington, Williams made the switch to India along with Krishna ahead of the 2019-20 Hero ISL season with Sosa Pena joining the squad later in the season. “I was looking for something different at the time. We really enjoyed our time in Wellington Phoenix. It's a beautiful place, but just didn't work out there. And India was somewhat different. I’ve played in a few countries now, and it's nice to travel. It's nice to experience the world and to play in different counties and experience different cultures,” Williams noted about his move to India.

The ATK experience

The 32-year-old, who has played for various clubs in Australia, Denmark and Hungary in the past, also praised the professionalism he observed at the Kolkata-based club and the Hero ISL. “In a few of my previous clubs, it wasn’t as professional as ATK. A lot of things came down to the budget and sometimes salaries were late. ATK are a very professional club, they gave everything that we needed,” he said.

“The staff is great. They give everything to the team. They're there before us and they leave after us. They have a big heart for the club, even though it's so young. As players especially, I think that the way that Roy (Krishna) and I have been brought up we appreciate everyone around us. And there's a lot of people in the background who do a lot and don't get recognized. It's a pleasure to be around as you can see on a lot on their faces,” the forward added.

Speaking about head coach Antonio Habas, Williams opined, “For Antonio, he knows how to win titles. He’s a very successful coach and he knows the Indian way. So, you have to listen to him. You have to do your best, work hard and try and keep your starting spot if he gives you the opportunity.”

Prabir can play outside India

One of the keys to ATK’s success this season was their Indian contingent stepping up and standing shoulder to shoulder with foreign stars like Krishna, Williams, Agustin Garcia and others to realize the dream of a record third-title. Williams was particularly impressed with the likes of Prabir Das and the young Sumit Rathi and had some warm words to share about his teammates. “Both Sumit and Prabir work hard during the training. In the gym, in the games, they just work hard. A few coaches say you don't need talent to work hard. A lot of the times players who worked the hardest generally get more opportunities than the talented bunch who might take things for granted. These two players work their socks off. They keep running and fight for everything. I think that playing in a good team has helped them as well. Sumit was playing next to Agus (Garcia) for a little bit which definitely helped him a lot. I think Agus guided him quite a lot.”

“Both Prabir and Sumit take constructive criticism very well. They listen and try to put to practice. They know the mistakes they've made. Prabir just runs all game, he's got so much passion. I think that also helps the talent that he's got to push him into the next level. I feel that he could play overseas and go even further outside India as long as he has the right coach and the right setup. Both of them I think, definitely deserve to be in and around the national team as well,” he added.

Motivation for another Hero ISL triumph

Interestingly, the Hero ISL 2019-20 title was the first major trophy of Williams’ career. However, with the final having to be played behind closed doors at a time when the world was bracing itself for a grueling battle against the COVID-19 pandemic, Williams’ family and closed ones couldn’t be there to witness the crowning moment. “Winning the Hero ISL was very surreal. My wife and my youngest were supposed to come over but we got a few warnings about India going into lockdown or not letting people into the country. So, it was perhaps for the best that they stayed back.”

Citing the same as a motivating factor for future triumph in the coming season, Williams declared, “It was very disappointing, but I guess we'll have to make another final next year so they can make it to that.

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