ATK Mohun Bagan qualified for the ISL 2020-21 final with a 2-1 result against NorthEast United FC in the second-leg of their second semi-final. NorthEast United FC did launch a late comeback, but a goal each from David Williams and Manvir Singh proved enough for ATK Mohun Bagan.
Having played out a 1-1 draw in the first-leg, the two teams were left to literally battle a single-legged semi-final. ATK Mohun Bagan were strengthened by the return of Tiri and Sandesh Jhingan, while Khalid Jamil took a gamble by starting Idrissa Sylla in place of Benjamin Lambot.
ATK Mohun Bagan made their intentions pretty clear as David Williams went for a shot in the first minute of the match. After skying the ball with that attempt, Roy Krishna laid the ball to Javi Hernandez, who went onto strike the post with a neat left-footed strike.
Williams was involved with another ambitious effort as he let the ball fly from outside the box. NorthEast United FC eventually came into the picture when Khassa Camara won an aerial duel for Idrissa Sylla, but the forward’s shot went wide of the target.
The impressive Luis Machado received a flicked header from Sylla and raced into the final third, before letting go of a fierce strike, but Arindam Bhattacharja tipped it away for a corner.
NorthEast United FC’s Mashoor Shereef put his team in trouble by failing to intercept a pass as he let Krishna race ahead. However, the Fijian struck the ball wide, after getting close to the box.
It didn’t take long for the ISL debutants to take the lead as Williams received Krishna's pass and got inside Ashutosh Mehta. The Australian surged forward into the box and lashed the ball into the top corner of the goal.
ATK Mohun Bagan could have extended their lead, but McHugh mis-directed a header once again. Just on the stroke of half-time, NorthEast United FC got their best chance from a Machado cross, but Lalengmawia’s feeble header was cleared quite easily by Bose.
The Highlanders started the second-half on a positive note as VP Suhair’s shot on the turn was tipped onto the post by a diving Arindam. NorthEast United FC got another big chance when Federico Gallego’s lobbed pass found Machado, but the winger’s shot was blocked by Arindam once again.
There was a big call after the hour mark from the referee, as he ruled out a goal when Krishna’s poked strike was cleared off the line by Ashutosh. However, the decision was justified when replays showed that the full pass didn’t cross the line.
ATK Mohun Bagan came close to a second goal, but Javi only found the side-netting. It didn’t matter as Manvir Singh scored from a brilliant counter-attack. Krishna found Manvir with a superbly weighted ball and the India international cut past a couple of NorthEast United FC defenders before finding the net.
Just when the game seemed to be meandering to a slow finish, NorthEast United FC's VP Suhair gave some hope to his side by heading the ball into the back of the net after Arindam messed up a Benjamin Lambot header.
ATK Mohun Bagan seemed to be crumbling under pressure when Bose brought down Sylla to give away a penalty in the 81st minute. However, Machado fired high and wide to extinguish NorthEast United FC’s renewed hope.
With four minutes to go in regular time, Ashutosh smacked the ball over the post after VP Suhair lobbed an inviting pass into the middle. These guilt-edged misses proved fatal for NorthEast United FC as ATK Mohun Bagan held onto their lead and made it to the final against Mumbai City FC.
Who was the Hero of the Match?
The much-improved Manvir Singh bagged the "Hero of the Match" for his superb performance in the semi-final. Despite being employed on the right wing, Manvir has showcased his finishing abilities with six goals from 22 matches.
The 25-year-old constantly troubled Northeast United FC’s left-back Gurjinder Kumar as he couldn’t deal with the pace. Manvir’s consistency might be key going forward not just ATK Mohun Bagan, but also for the national team.