Road to semis: After top-spot disappointment, ATK Mohun Bagan target redemption by winning Hero ISL trophy

ATK Mohun Bagan may be disappointed with their failure to top the standings and clinch the League Winners Shield in Hero Indian Super League (Hero ISL) 2020-21 but they can be satisfied with their efforts over the course of the campaign that saw them qualify for the semi-finals in their debut season and accumulate as many points as table-toppers Mumbai City FC.

Hero ISL 2020-21’s meanest defence, the Mariners have had a memorable season on many counts. They got the better of their arch-rivals SC East Bengal in both the Kolkata derbies during the league stage and were involved in some memorable games like their 4-1 triumph over Odisha FC and their come-from-behind 3-2 victory against Kerala Blasters FC. Here’s a closer look at their road to the semis in the ongoing campaign.

Matches played: 20, Points: 40, Wins: 12, Draws: 4, Losses: 4, Goals scored: 28, Goals conceded: 15, Clean sheets: 10

Top goal-scorer: Roy Krishna (14 goals)

ATK Mohun Bagan started their season with great confidence and efficiency, winning their first three matches of the campaign without even conceding a goal. Their first loss of the season came at the hands of Jamshedpur FC and a draw with Hyderabad FC followed next. However, successive wins against FC Goa and Bengaluru FC got their season back on track as they took 10 points from four matches prior to a narrow loss to Mumbai City FC.

The Mariners then picked up a draw and a win against FC Goa and Chennaiyin FC respectively but a defeat to a resurgent NorthEast United FC thwarted their charge to the top of the standings. Antonio Lopez Habas’ men though came back strong following the loss to the Highlanders and went on a five-match winning run that saw them sit at the summit of the standings with a five-point lead over Mumbai City FC with two games to play.

Their last two matches of the league stage though ended in a draw against Hyderabad FC and a defeat to Mumbai City FC as the Mariners blew their chances of lifting the League Winners Shield, allowing the Islanders to take their spot instead. After both teams were tied on 40 points, the points gathered from their two matches over the league stage came into play, and with six points Sergio Lobera’s men got the nod ahead of ATK Mohun Bagan.

Key players:

Roy Krishna is undoubtedly their talisman in attack and the fact that he is the league’s leading marksman is a fair reflection of what has happened so far. The Fijian international always seems to deliver when needed most and his understanding with David Williams, who has made his share of match-winning contributions when needed, is second to none. The addition of Marcelo Pereira to their ranks in the winter transfer window has also been a boost for their attack, while Manvir Singh has been another game-changer for the Mariners this season having netted five times besides providing three assists.

As we enter the semi-final stage of the season, ATK Mohun Bagan will be eager to erase the memory of losing the League Winners Shield by qualifying for the final and eventually winning the coveted Hero ISL trophy. The Mariners have players and a head coach that have the experience of playing in matches of such importance, which is sure to be an advantage for them as we approach Hero ISL 2020-21’s final stretch.

That said, getting to the final will be easier said than done, especially when you consider their opponents in the semi-final. They will be facing a NorthEast United FC team that are on a 10-match unbeaten run and got the better of ATK Mohun Bagan when the sides last met. The Mariners though have beaten the Highlanders once earlier in the campaign and will back themselves to overcome Khalid Jamil’s men over two legs.

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