Defending Indian Super League champions Atletico de Kolkata were eliminated by Chennaiyin FC in the second semi-final on aggregate in spite of winning the second leg 2-1 at the Salt Lake Stadium in Kolkata on Wednesday night. Goals from Dejan Lekic and Iain Hume looked to spark a late comeback before former Atletico striker Fikru Teferra put the tie out of reach with a goal in injury time.
First Half: Atletico de Kolkata take lead through defensive error
The first three minutes of the game saw Atletico dominate proceedings. Forward Dejan Lekic was the catalyst for all the team’s attacks, with swift combination moves and accurate attacking passes. In only the second minute, his strong central run and a cross-field diagonal ball fell to Iain Hume, whose shot was saved by Chennaiyin custodian Edel.
The Hume-Lekic combination ran initial proceedings with the former making a run from the left-hand side and passing the ball to Lekic, who drove a strong shot, just above Edel’s top right corner.
Chennaiyin’s first major attack came through ISL top scorer Stiven Mendoza, who shrugged off three defenders and forced Atletico goalie Amrinder down to his right side in the 10th minute. A few minutes later, Lekic again put Hume through the centre, but Bernanrd Mendy was there to block the attempt.
Chennaiyin were mostly looking to work on the counter, knowing they had a sufficient buffer to defend. Both Blasi and Elano played a defensive role today, easily nullifying Jaime Gavilan and Arata Izumi.
The first breakthrough came in the 21st minute. Augustine drove a hopeful ball into the box, which was met by Elano and the Brazilian’s tame header fell to Mendy. But his botched header back to the goalkeeper allowed Dejan Lekic to calmly nick the ball past Edel to break the deadlock.
Atletico looked to force the issue, but Chennaiyin’s central defensive duo of Mendy and Mailson stood strong through the flurry of attacks. The main threat for Marco Materazzi’s men came through Mendoza. Jeje also created a few problems for the Atletico defence with a long-range snapshot shoved away by Amrinder in the 28th minute.
Elano received the first caution of the game blocking Izumi’s flanking run near the half-way line. Exactly a minute later, the Brazilian stalwart was lucky to stay on the field as he body-checked Izumi again down the right hand side. However, the referee let him off with a final warning.
Atletico came close to shortening the deficit five minutes from half-time. A long throw by Hume released Doutie down the right but his shot forced an outstretched save from Edel. Antonio Habas's continued to create problems down the wings, with long range shots as the referee signalled for half time.
Half-time: Atletico de Kolkata 1-0 Chennaiyin FC
Second Half: Late drama finally sees Chennaiyin eliminate Atletico
The second half began with Chennaiyin attempting to create a more attacking approach to their game. But that soon fizzled out as Atletico began pressing for their second goal. In the 49th minute, they almost had their breakthrough, as Lekic again released Augustine down the left hand side. His cross was met by an unchallenged Rino Anto, who scuffed his volley, over the bar.
Chennaiyin played with a back five in the second half with Blasi falling back to help in a central defensive role. An ugly spat took place on the 55th minute, as Thoi Singh brought down Doutie near the half way line, getting booked in the process. However, Augustine wasn’t having any of it, head-butting Mendoza to the ground. He got off easy as the referee brandished only a yellow card.
Atletico again came close to claiming a second goal on the 58th minute mark, a wonderful cross-field ball by Arata, met by Jaime Gavilan down the right. The Spaniard swivelled past three defenders, but his shot deflected off the defender. The subsequent corner saw Tiri’s header off the line by Khabra. The follow-up by Lekic was narrowly wide.
Chennaiyin’s biggest chance of the half came through Mendoza again, who fired over Amrinder in the ATK goal. In the 63rd minute, Chennaiyin defender Mehrajuddin Wadoo brought down Hume outside the box. The following free-kick deflected off the wall and fell onto Lekic again, who shot narrowly wide.
Doutie had another chance for Atletico as he received the ball from the left hand side. But his snapshot was cleared by Mendy. Chennaiyin made their first substitution as Captain Elano was replaced Bruno Pellisari.
A flurry of Atletico attacks followed, but they seemed to lack the quality on the final third. Materazzi made another substitution in the 75th minute, removing Blasi for a defensive midfielder in Zakeer Mundampara. The home side also made their first substitution removing Anto for striker Mohammed Rafique.
Chennaiyin continued to tighten their defence as ATK were slowly restricted to long shots. Gavilan tried his luck from distance, narrowly shooting over the bar in the 81st minute. As the clock ticked down, Atletico’s chances of making the final were slowly drifting away.
But Hume clawed one back spectacularly in the 87th minute after receiving the ball outside the box, did a successful one-two with Lekic and volleyed the ball home. Edel was rooted to the spot. Chennaiyin then made their last substitution removing Mendoza for Fikru.
Atletico came close to equalising after Gavilan’s free-kick was met by Hume but the Canadian’s glancing header was tipped over the bar by Edel. But the fairytale comeback was not be as substitute Fikru clinched the match for Chennaiyin.
A misplaced throw by Amrinder fell to the Ethiopian, who made no mistake as he cut past the custodian and slotted the ball home. The match ended with a scuffle between the fourth official and Atletico coach Antonio Habas. He was eventually asked to leave the field after he pushed referee Yudai Yamamoto.
A capacity crowd of 68,342 in Salt Lake stadium went home unhappy as Chennaiyin progressed to the finals, by a 4-2 aggregate scoreline. They will now face FC Goa in the final on 20 December.