ATKMB Media Team

ATK Mohun Bagan defeated Maldives-based side Maziya S&RC 5-2 in their final AFC Cup 2022 group stage match at the Salt Lake Stadium, on Tuesday evening. With the win, the Mariners topped Group D to qualify for the Inter-Zonal Semi-Finals of the continental event.

With just a win enough for ATK Mohun Bagan to qualify for the next round, they were in control of the driver’s wheel from the starting whistle. The hangover of the handsome 4-0 win over Bashundhara Kings was still visible, as the Mariners dominated the opening minutes of the game, yet they were unable to create a serious goal-scoring opportunity.

Maziya S&RC slowly joined the party, as the visitors enjoyed much more possession after the initial stages and were threatening on the counter. It was in the 16th minute that the Maldives-based side had an excellent opportunity to draw first blood, but they failed to bulge the net.

A flurry of attacks after the 20-minute mark haunted the Maziya S&RC box, but the Mariners wasted each of those opportunities. However, in the 26th minute, a schoolboy error from the Maziya goalkeeper allowed the hosts to take the lead, as Joni Kauko scored with a neat strike.

Kauko could have well doubled the lead in the 32nd minute, when he was unmarked after Roy Krishna’s cross found him inside the box, but the shot was blocked. The nightmare was not over for Maziya S&RC as Roy Krishna’s powerful shot missed the goal post by a whisker in the 33rd minute.

In the 37th minute, a witty header from Manvir Singh found the onrushing Joni Kauko on the right who was unchallenged. The Finnish footballer, with ample time to convert, slotted the ball home after it brushed goalkeeper Kiran Chemzong on the way.

Out of the blue, a Maziya counter attack caught the Mariners defence by surprise, as Stewart’s left-footed long-ranger on target was blocked by the gloveman. Minutes later, Deepak Tangi’s miss-pass ripped up ATK Mohun Bagan defence, the visitors, charging on the counter, pulled one back by a calm finish from Tana, moments before the half-time whistle.

ATK Mohun Bagan started off the second half with a bang. Twirling past the defence in the 47th minute, Roy Krishna’s through ball found Manvir in a goal-scoring position, only to see his attempt miss the mark by inches.

They did not have to wait much longer, as Subhasish Bose’s cross was received by Krishna inside the box, who eventually rolled it into the back of the box with a sublime finish in the 56th minute.Three minutes later, the provider turned scorer as Subhasish Bose with the faintest of touches redirected Liston Colaco’s free-kick to make it 4-1.

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Joni Kauko’s yet another defence splitting through ball allowed Liston Colaco to extend the lead, but his chip was off-target as the scoreline remained unchanged in the 66th minute. ATK Mohun Bagan kept the show running as the chances came in thick and fast, with Carl McHugh netting the fifth in the 71st minute after a lucky deflection.

Two minutes later, Maziya struck on the counter, as Stewart’s cross was headed home by Tana to complete his brace for the evening. The Mariners’ were not over yet, they kept on creating chances, as Roy Krishna’s left-footer was denied by the woodwork in the 81st minute.

The Mariners held onto the lead firmly, even though they could have easily increased the margin. Meanwhile, Maziya’s valiant efforts until the final whistle could not reduce the deficit.

Juan Ferrando’s boys finished with six points from three matches, similar to Bangladesh’s Bashundhara Kings, but advanced further in the AFC Cup 2022, due to a superior goal-difference and better head-to-head record.