ATK went on to successfully lift their 2019-20 Indian Super League title with a 2-0 win over Chennaiyin FC at the Fatorda Stadium in Goa on Saturday. Javi Hernandez's two goals at either end of the 90 minutes along with Edu Garcia's early goal in the second half sealed the deal for ATK even as Chennaiyin FC threatened in the final thirty minutes.
It was Chennaiyin FC who made the better start in the final as they had a couple of superb chances in the first four minutes of the game itself. These misses came back to haunt them when Javi Hernandez opened the scoring in the 10th minute. This goal helped ATK settle down as they had been a bit jittery until then. Although Chennaiyin FC had a few more chances in the first 45 minutes, ATK and Arindam Bhattacharya ensured that the score was 1-0 at the half-way mark.
ATK then doubled their advantage in the 48th minute as Edu Garcia curled the ball past a hapless Vishal Kaith. They should have seen the game off calmly after that but Chennaiyin FC took advantage of their opponent's passive game-play by getting one goal back in the 69th minute. After missing a host of chances, the Lithuanian Nerijus Valskis finally found his scoring boots to give his side the hope of making a late comeback. Even though Chennai threatened on a few more occasions, it was ATK who extended the scoring with Javi Hernandez's composed finish in stoppage time. At that point, Chennaiyin FC couldn't be criticized as they had no option but to have their players on the other end of the pitch.
On the whole, ATK went onto lift their 3rd ISL title with a performance that befitted a tournament final. Here, we take a look at five hits and flops from the game.
1. Hit - Javi Hernandez (ATK)
Finals generally tend to be cagey affairs as teams are always hesitant to go one behind early on but ATK struck a hammer blow when Javi Hernandez opened the scoring in the 10th minute. After receiving a cut-back pass from Roy Krishna, Javi swung his boot to hit the ball onto the ground before finding the net eventually. After starting the show, Javi also finished it with a goal in stoppage time when he casually rounded off Vishal Kaith and a couple of other Chennaiyin players to help ATK lift their third title
Apart from the two goals, Javi had one of his best games in this season as he showed superb link-up play with Edu Garcia and David Williams. The Spaniard maintained a healthy 76% passing accuracy rate to keep the ball ticking whenever ATK found some possession. The 30-year-old wasn't away from defensive action too as he came up with two clearances and one interception.
2. Flop - Nerijus Valskis (Chennaiyin FC)
After seeing Nerijus Valskis being so prolific in the second half of the season, the striker's performance on an important night seemed like a highlight reel from the time when Chennaiyin were struggling for goals under previous manager John Gregory.
The Lithuanian got numerous chances to get his side up and running but he couldn't find the net at all until the 68th minute. Nothing could describe his first-half performance than the 3rd minute shot which struck the cross-bar and flew away. A few minutes later, Valskis directed a feeble shot which went straight to Arindam Bhattacharya. Even after he scored Chennaiyin's only goal of the night in the 67th minute, Valskis missed out on a golden opportunity to head home Chennaiyin's equalizer. He went onto miss another header in the 82nd minute when Rafael Crivellaro found him with an inch-perfect cross.
Valskis also lost possession on 13 different occasions while never getting hold of the ground duels. His performance and misses turned out to be the difference between Chennaiyin FC and a clinical ATK side.
3. Hit - Prabir Das (ATK)
All through the season, Prabir Das was lauded for his effort in the final-third as not many Indian players showcased the wing-back's efficiency with crosses. However, on Saturday, the defensive side of Prabir Das' game came to the forefront when he was tasked with the challenge of limiting Lallianzuala Chhangte and Jerry Lalrinzuala on the left flank.
The West-Bengal born player won all of his six ground and aerial duels on the day. Prabir had one clearance and two interceptions as Chennaiyin found it difficult to penetrate ATK's solid back-line mainly in the first half. None of his efforts were more important than a sliding tackle which helped ATK regain the ball from the dangerous Rafael Crivellero during a counter-attacking move in the 20th minute of the game.
Although he couldn't deliver stunning crosses like the ones which were on show in the second-leg of ATK's semi-final against Bengaluru FC, Prabir Das still did enough to keep Laldinliana Renthlei on his toes with his pace and trickery.
4. Flop - Eli Sabia (Chennaiyin FC)
The centre-back Eli Sabia who had such a solid run to the final couldn't deliver his best in the final. Although Sabia made some interesting runs into the ATK box, his work at the back wasn't great, to say the least.
The defender was out of position quite a few times and was also made to commit himself too early on certain occasions when Roy Krishna surged forward after receiving long balls to trouble the Chennaiyin back-line. Sabia's inefficient defending to let Krishna go past him near the by-line could have seen ATK go 2-0 up in the 23rd minute itself. The 31-year-old was yet also at fault for ATK's second goal as it was his poor attempt at intercepting that allowed David Williams to run into a lot of space in the final third to set-up Edu Garcia's neat strike.
The Brazilian also received a yellow card for a professional foul when he brought down Edu Garcia with a rash tackle in the 88th minute. With Garcia and ATK wasting sixty-odd seconds, Chennaiyin FC lost some vital time while searching for their second goal.
Overall, Sabia had a really disappointing game in which he lost the ball on 15 occasions while also committing a foul which saw him go into the referee's book.
5. Hit - Arindam Bhattacharya (ATK)
Last but not least, ATK have to really thank their goal-keeper Arindam Bhattacharya for the important victory as he was a rock at the back throughout the ninety minutes.
The 30-year-old has been criticized a few times for some silly mistakes which led to goals against Chennaiyin FC and Bengaluru FC in the recent past but he redeemed himself with a solid performance when it mattered the most.
Bhattacharya has to be especially lauded for weathering a Chennaiyin FC storm which lasted a few minutes during the first half. Bhattacharya made his first major save when he stopped Nerijus Valskis' first-time shot in the 27th minute. He again came up trumps when Valskis' strike from outside the box was pushed away safely a couple of minutes later. Not too long after that, the goal-keeper made his best save on the night when he dived well to his right in order push away a sweetly-struck Andre Schembri header.
Apart from being a good shot-stopper, the Indian international was also good with his communication with the three centre-backs especially when it came to aerial balls. On the whole, Bhattacharja's performance was one that had a major say in ATK winning the title.
Published 14 Mar 2020, 23:19 IST