ATK Mohun Bagan squared off against Malaysia's Kuala Lumpur City FC in the 2022 AFC Cup Inter-Zonal semi-finals on Tuesday, September 7.
With high hopes, Juan Ferrando's men took to the field in pursuit of making it to the next round. However, the lack of incisiveness in the final third cost the Kolkata giants dearly.
The two sides clashed at the Vivekananda Yuva Bharati Krirangan in Kolkata. After losing out on qualification in the Durand Cup, the Mariners were eager to make the occasion count.
Ferrando fielded a side that excluded Hugo Boumous as well as Dimitrios Petratos, who recently joined the camp. The absence of these two players was visible right from the start of the encounter.
The Green and Maroon Brigade opted to go their usual way; keeping the ball and slowly progressing it through the third from their flanks. However, Ferrando's men were unable to breach Bojan Hodak's defensive setup. The visiting team sat back in numbers, allowing their opposition time on the ball. This caused the Mariners a lot of problems going forward.
Despite having the likes of Liston Colaco, Manvir Singh and Ashique Kuruniyan, the Kolkata-based outfit were unable to carve out an opening in the City Boys' half. Joni Kauko was the most active participant in the Green and Maroon, continuously working to make the most of the side's possession and also tracking back to disrupt their attacks.
Kuala Lumpur City FC's Kamal Azizi was defensively solid against Colaco. The defender kept a close watch on the Indian winger and made sure that the player was unable to get past him.
Midway through the first half, Jordan Mintah was gifted with an opportunity to put one past ATK Mohun Bagan's keeper Vishal Kaith. A botched clearance fell to the Kuala Lumpur City FC forward, who failed to capitalize on the opportunity.
ATK Mohun Bagan fail to keep it together even after bagging late equalizer
The away side scored their first goal of the match on the hour mark. Kuala Lumpur City FC's Paulo Josue spotted an open space outside the ATK Mohun Bagan box and ran towards it. The skipper let loose a left-footed effort from outside the box which flew past Kaith. The goal shook up the home team, who now looked desperate to make an impact.
Ferrando introduced youth and pace in the hopes of savoring something from the tie. Fardin Ali Molla, Kiyan Nassiri and Asish Rai were brought on. Kuruniyan shifted to the left flank and was allowed more freedom to move forward. Wave after wave of attack failed to help the Mariners breach the opposition's defense, who were defending deep.
In the 90th minute, a sequence of chaotic affairs concluded with Ali Molla managing to score for ATK Mohun Bagan, fueling hopes of a comeback. But the scoreline did not stay that way for long.
Moments later, Josue's freekick from the right flank was headed by Muhammad Aiman, who was unmarked inside the box during the set-piece. The goal spoiled the mood for everyone at the stadium.
However, the match wasn't over yet. A goal-kick by the Kuala Lumpur City FC keeper went straight into the opposition's half. Subhasish Bose miscued the clearance and was left ball-watching as Romel Morales darted into the box to hammer the final nail on the coffin.
The match ended with ATK Mohun Bagan losing 3-1 to the visitors, conceding two goals in stoppage time.