ATK Mohun Bagan held off a late NorthEast United FC charge to seal a 2-1 win (3-2 on aggregate) in the second leg of the ISL 2020-21 semi-final, and booked a place in the final against Mumbai City FC, who had beaten FC Goa in a thrilling semi-final on Monday.
The result also means that ATKMB have qualified for the AFC Cup Group Stages after finishing second in the league and qualifying for the final. Mumbai have already sealed the Asian Champions League spot by winning the league stage.
ATKMB were dominant for much of the game, taking the lead through David Williams (38') and doubling it through Manvir Singh (68'). But having failed to put the game beyond doubt, they allowed NEUFC a sniff late on, Khalid Jamil's team pulling one back through a Suhair VP header in the 74th minute.
ATKMB created their first chance in the third minute, as Roy Krishna threaded an accurate pass to Javier Hernandez, who unleashed a low shot, which came off the post.
ATKMB kept forcing NorthEast into defensive errors, with Williams and Krishna tormenting the backline. Subhasish Roy made a couple of good saves to deny Subhasish Bose and Krishna. At the other end, Luis Machado forced a save from Arindam Bhattacharja when his dipping effort was pushed behind by the keeper.
The Kolkata side deservingly took the lead in the 38th minute when Krishna set up Williams, and the latter beat the defenders with pace before slotting it into the top right corner.
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NorthEast came back strongly in the second half and dominated the first 15 minutes. They created chances and tested the keeper, but both Federico Gallego and Suhair were denied early on by Arindam.
But Bagan were soon back in control and found a second goal through a quick counter. An NEUFC set-piece was cleared by Bagan and Krishna was quick to initiate an attack from outside his own box. The Fijian played a long ball to Manvir, who sent two defenders the wrong way before shooting past the keeper.
NEUFC pulled a goal back from a set-piece. Machado whipped in a corner which was flicked on by Benjamin Lambot. Arindam missed the ball completely before it hit the post and Suhair was at the right place to head it in.
NorthEast got a massive opportunity to get back into the game when Idrissa Sylla was brought down by Bose in the box. The referee awarded a penalty, but Machado fired it wide to end Khalid Jamil's unbeaten run as NorthEast United's coach.
Despite the late scare, ATKMB managed to hold on and can still end the season with a trophy, after disappointingly missing out on the league shield to Mumbai.