Regular-article-logo Friday, 09 June 2023

ATK dodge odds over Bengaluru FC, reach ISL final

Williams & Roy score, Prabir plays stellar role

Angshuman Roy Calcutta Published 08.03.20, 08:32 PM
ATK’s David Williams (right) celebrates with Prabir Das and Jayesh Rane (left) at the  Salt Lake Stadium on Sunday

ATK’s David Williams (right) celebrates with Prabir Das and Jayesh Rane (left) at the Salt Lake Stadium on Sunday Picture by Santosh Ghosh

The moment referee Ebrahim Aisamaheeji blew the final whistle, Prabir Das made a 50-metre sprint, jumped over the billboards and went towards the spectators. He thanked the fans who were chanting his name and kissed the ATK crest.

Prabir’s joy knew no bounds and why not? He played a stellar role in ATK’s come-from-behind 3-1 win in the second leg of the second semi-final against defending champions Bengaluru FC at the Salt Lake Stadium where 50,102 spectators, including Sourav Ganguly, turned up on Sunday evening.


“The hunger was always there and I worked hard for this,” a beaming Prabir said after the match.

The win, 3-2 on aggregate, took ATK to the final of ISL VI where Chennaiyin FC are waiting for them. An ATK victory on March 14 in Margao will see them winning the trophy for the third time.

The defending champions began with a bang, taking the lead in the very fifth minute through Ashique Kuruniyan. The goal was controversial, though. In the build up to the goal, the Malaysian referee did not notice Nili Perdomo’s handball. And it was Nili’s audacious through ball which Ashique converted.

ATK restored parity when Roy Krishna’s delightful jab off an exquisite Prabir delivery beat Bengaluru FC goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu.

In the 61st minute, David Williams made it 2-1 from the spot, after he was brought down by Suresh Singh inside the penalty box. The third came in the 79th minute and it was Williams once again, this time with a powerful header. And the assist? None other than Prabir.

ATK coach Antonio Lopez has worked wonders with this team. The never-say-die attitude of the players made the difference in the match. Take Arindam Bhattacharya for example. At the pre-match media conference on Saturday he was candid enough to say that ATK conceded the only goal in the first leg because of his mistake. On Sunday too, he was to be blamed for the goal ATK conceded.

He was at the near post and should have saved Ashique’s left footer. But as the match progressed he grew in confidence.

Midway through the second half, Arindam brilliantly blocked Bengaluru substitute Kevaughn Freta’s attempt. A Bengaluru goal at that point in time could have ruined ATK’s evening. And after ATK took the lead and Bengaluru threw everything they had at the hosts, Arindam made some brilliant saves.

Same with Prabir. He was a livewire on the right making life miserable for Bengaluru. His deliveries were brilliant and Krishna and Williams made the most of it. And when it came to defending, Prabir was right there stifling down Sunil Chhetri.

Prabir missed the entire ISL V due to injury. He had some personal problems too. But ATK had faith in him and this season under Antonio, Prabir is a man reborn.

With ATK in the final and Bagan on the threshold of the I-League title, it’s a double bonanza even before their merger becomes official on June 1.

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