Bengaluru FC missed the chance to make it to a third ISL final after a double from David Williams (63’, 79’) and a goal from Roy Krishna (30’) was enough to send Antonio Habas’ ATK side to the summit clash with a 3-1 win over Carles Cuadrat’s side at the Yuva Bharati Krirangan, in Kolkata, on Sunday. Ashique Kuruniyan had opened the scoring for the Blues but an inspired fightback from the hosts saw the two-time champions make their way through.
Without the services of a suspended Nishu Kumar and an injured Albert Serran, Cuadrat handed starts to Nili Perdomo and Ashique Kuruniyan. While the Spaniard slotted in at the left-back position, Ashique joined the attack on the wings as Bengaluru set up in what looked like a 4-1-4-1.
Though armed with a goal scored at Kanteerava, the Blues knew an early strike at the Salt Lake would only double the pressure on ATK. And it took all of five minutes for the Blues to leave the hosts with a mountain to climb. Cutting out a pass from David Williams, Perdomo picked Ashique’s run down the right with a delightful pass with the outside of his foot. The youngster skipped past the sliding challenge of Sumit Rathi, outpaced the retreating red and white shirts before calmly slotting past Arindam Bhattacharja at the near post to make it 0-1.
The Blues kept switching flanks with ease and picked Ashique who ran at the ATK defence with confidence. He could have had a second in the 19th minute when he was picked out by Chhetri, but his shot from distance flew wide. At the other end, Williams drew a fantastic save from Gurpreet after the Krishna’s cut-back fell to the Australian.
ATK, however, soon broke Bengaluru’s resistance at the back when Krishna turned in an inch-perfect cross from Prabir Das beyond Gurpreet in the 30th minute to make it 1-1 on the night as the teams went into half-time with the game and tie delicately poised.
Needing two more goals to progress, the hosts found their way back into the game, albeit with the help of what looked like a dubious refereeing decision a minute beyond the hour-mark. With the ball at his feet in the box, Williams made the most of Suresh Wangjam’s planted foot, establishing contact and following it up with a belated dive – enough for Ali Aisamaheeji to point to the spot. Williams stepped up and buried the penalty past Gurpreet to make it 2-1 on the night and 2-2 on aggregate.
Cuadrat made two changes in quick succession, bringing on Kevaughn Frater for Deshorn Brown and soon after, replacing Ashique with Udanta Singh. Frater had bug chance to take the tie away from ATK when he was played on by Udanta. But the Jamaican should have done better than hit straight at Arindam from an angle.
The missed chance came to haunt Bengaluru minutes later when ATK scored the third goal they needed after an unmarked Williams rose to nod home a cross from Prabir in the 79th minute. After Bheke’s tackle failed to retrieve possession from the ATK full-back, Prabir’s whipped effort was met with a strong header from the Aussie striker.