ATK edge past Delhi to confirm sixth-place finish

A thrilling second half at the Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan in Kolkata saw ATK clinch a narrow 2-1 win over Delhi Dynamos FC on Sunday. The win in their last match of the Hero Indian Super League (Hero ISL) 2018-19 season helped Steve Coppell’s men finish sixth in the table and secure a direct qualification for the Hero Super Cup.

For Delhi, the loss ended their six-match unbeaten streak as they end their season in eighth position on the table with 18 points from as many matches.

The home team started the match brightly and could have been awarded an early penalty after Narayan Das' challenge on Komal Thatal inside the Delhi box. The referee, however, deemed that the Delhi defender got a touch on the ball first. As the match progressed, however, Delhi settled into the match, dominated possession and created a few chances of their own to worry the ATK backline.

Thatal looked the liveliest player on the pitch for the hosts in the opening minutes and was a nuisance down the right wing with his pace and direct running. However, the final pass was missing despite all his hard work.

Surprisingly, Edu Garcia was having a quiet half and had little involvement in the match except for a snap shot from inside the box which went wide and a penalty claim in the dying minutes of the first half. However, like the earlier one, this too was waved off.

Interestingly, the only shot on target in the first 45 minutes came from Delhi, when Ulises Davila made Arindam Bhattacharja work with a tame drive. The half-time whistle sounded with the score 0-0.

Very unlike the somewhat pedestrian first half, the second half started in frantic fashion with both teams upping the offensive ante. End to end action ensued and both teams created back to back chances. But the first goal still remained elusive.

The deadlock was finally broken on the 63rd minute. Pritam Kotal floated in a beautiful cross inside the Delhi box to pick out Garcia in between two Delhi defenders. The Spaniard timed his jump perfectly and nodded the ball home to make it 1-0 in the home team’s favour.

Conceding the goal immediately prompted a couple of changes from Delhi head coach Josep Gombau, who brought on Nandhakumar Sekar and Mohammad Dhot in place of Romeo Fernandes and Rana Gharami respectively. The reshuffle yielded immediate results as substitute Nandhakumar Sekar restored parity on the 72nd minute. The young winger blasted Lallianzuala Chhangte’s deflected low cross into the net to bring the Lions right back into the match.

With time running out, it would be another substitute who would prove to be the difference between the two teams on the night. Ankit Mukherjee, who came on for ATK on the 70th minute, found himself on the end of Edu Garcia’s cross with a couple of minutes left for regulation time. With Francisco Dorronsoro closing him down fast, Ankit hit it first time and scored to restore ATK’s lead. The match ended 2-1 in the home team’s favour.

HERO OF THE MATCH - Edu Garcia

ATK’s January signing put on a brilliant display yet again, leading the two-time Hero ISL champions’ attack with poise and grace in the absence of Manuel Lanzarote. Garcia capped off his performance with a goal and an assist to earn the Hero of the Match award.

CLUB AWARDS

Club Award – ATK

Swift Limitless Player of the Match – John Johnson

DHL Winning Pass of the Match – Pritam Kotal

ISL Emerging Player of the Match – Ankit Mukherjee

Hero of the Match – Edu Garcia

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