ISL: Atletico de Kolkata beat Kerala Blasters FC to win second title
Atletico de Kolkata claimed their second Indian Super League (ISL) football title in three years bettering Kerala Blasters 4-3 (1-1) on penalty shootout in an excruciating final on Sunday
Jubilant Atletico de Kolkata players with the trophy after winning the Indian Super League-3 final against Kerala Blasters at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Kochi yesterday. ATK won 4-3 on penalties. Pic/Sportzpics
Kochi: Atletico de Kolkata (co-woned by Sourav Ganguly) claimed their second Indian Super League (ISL) title in three years bettering Kerala Blasters (co-owned by Sachin Tendulkar) 4-3 (1-1) on penalty shoot-out in the final here yesterday. The match was tied in 1-1 at the break and after 90 minutes of regulation time. Mohammed Rafi put the hosts ahead in the 37th minute and Henrique Sereno Fonseca equalised seven minutes later.
Jewel in ATK's crown
Jewel Raja turned out to be the jewel in ATK's crown, calmly dispatching the last penalty, after Sameehg Doutie, Borja Fernandez and Javi Lara all converted their spot kicks. Kerala custodian Graham Stack could only block Iain Hume's shot. The home team took first strike in the shoot-out. Antonio German, Kervens Belfort and Mohammed Rafique scored while Elhadji Ndoye blasted over from 18 yards and Cedric Hengbart's shot was saved by ATK goalkeeper Debjit Majumder.
ATK also defeated Kerala in the final of the inaugural edition of the tournament in 2014. It was ATK who conceded first from a set-piece. Rafi, who rose above Kotal to divert the ball past an outstretched goalkeeper Debjit Majumder, guided in Mehtab's corner. Kerala's sense of supremacy due to their obtained lead seemed accidental and ATK's equaliser, just a minute before the breather by Henrique Sereno Fonseca, was deserved as they appeared more likely to score from open play.
The match settled into a mediocre rhythm. The extra-time was more of a forced exercise on the players. Neither team were ready to go for the jugular, wary of getting caught on the break, preferring to keep ball possession. Penalties seemed inevitable and the only solution to the deadlock. And when it happened, ATK emerged stronger, just as they did in 2014 when they won in the injury time.
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