Mumbai City FC’s dream of entering 2016 final and winning the 2016 Hero Indian Super League was shattered on Tuesday night, when their second-leg semifinal ended in a goalless draw against 2014 champions Atletico de Kolkata. ATK adopted a tactical approach in fortifying their defense and even when they were down to 10-men for more than 45 minutes, Mumbai couldn’t mount pressure against the depleted side. Mumbai needed to put through just one goal to reach the final on the away-goal advantage but ATK ensured that the hosts were not allowed to ride on that edge derived at the Group Stage. The second-leg semifinal was not in the same class as the one played at Kolkata’s Rabindra Sarovar stadium on December 10, because ATK concentrated on preventing Mumbai’s forwards to come into their penalty box. As for Mumbai, they got some close chances but muffed them, when it mattered most.
As the match began, Mumbai were the first to earn a scoring chance in the 6th minute. Their captain Sunil Chhetri collected the ball near the box and he had only the goalkeeper to beat. However, Chhetri kept the ball for a bit too long and finally produced a weak shot that ATK goalkeeper Debjit Majumder easily saved. In the 20th minute, it was kolkata’s turn to launch an attack on the Mumbai goal. From left flank, Abinash Ruidas sent a very promising cross that was perfect for Bidyananda Singh but the short-statured Bidyananda failed to connect. Later, Bidyananda got injured and he was replaced by Lalrindika Ralte. The substitute almost made his presence felt in the 30th minute, when he too received a similar cross from Ruidas that couldn’t be cleared by Mumbai’s defense and the ball fell in Lalrindika’s way. However Lalrindika couldn’t shoot on target. The complexion of the game changed in the 42nd minute, when ATK’s Robert Lalthlamuana picked up his second yellow card of the match and was promptly sent out by the referee. Now Kolkata were down to 10-men with the entire second half remaining. The teams went for break at 0-0.
Immediately on restart, Mumbai’s Sony Norde entered the box but failed to beat ATK goalkeeper. One minute later, Matias Defederico also had just the goalkeeper to beat but the Argentinian’s shot was saved by Majumder. On the one-hour mark, ATK had a great scoring chance, when Javi Lara went past got Mumbai’s Sena Ralte on the right flank before sending a good cross for the Spaniard Juan Belencoso. But Belencoso couldn’t reach in time for making the connection. In 76th minute, ATK eked out another opportunity after Javi Lara’s free-kick fell in the box for Stephen Pearson. However, the Kolkata midfielder sent the shot over the crossbar. In 84th minute, Mumbai missed another chance, when Matias Defederico was in close range but he still failed to find the target. With 2 minutes remaining, Mumbai got close twice more. Mumbai’s Romanian recruit Lucian Goian received a promising ball from Sony Norde but Goian’s header went over the bar. One minute later, Jackichand Singh produced a stinging shot but that too sailed over the crossbar. In the second minute of injury time, Goian shot hard but straight to goalkeeper Majumder. Then the final whistle blew and it signified that ATK would make their final appearance in the Hero Indian Super League for the second time in three years.
Now the first finalist of the 2016 Hero ISL has been decided. On Wednesday, Delhi Dynamos will host Kerala Blasters FC for the other second-leg semifinal. The winner of that match will join Kolkata in the final. With 1-0 first-leg advantage, Kerala will be raring to go against Dynamos in an attempt to play the final at the home venue on December 18.