ISL Semi-final: Atletico de Kolkata win but Chennaiyin FC enter final

Atletico de Kolkata vs Chennaiyin FCThere was drama, there was emotion and there were celebrations too. In the end, Atletico de Kolkata(ATK) lost out on a final berth, despite raising hopes of a comeback in the dying minutes.

ATK's 2-1 victory at the Salt Lake Stadium was not enough as Chennaiyin FC made it to the finals with an aggregate score of 4-2. Dejan Lekic lucky strike put the home ahead in the 21st minute and Ian Hume doubled the home team's lead in the 86th minute with a briliant volley that left the away team shaken.

With just three minutes from the scheduled time and 5 minutes of injury time added, ATK were desperate to go for the kill. Just then there came a twist in the match. Chennaiyin's head coach Marko Matterazzi substituted Steven Mendoza with Fikru Teferra, whose acrimoninous exit from ATK was the talk of the town. It was expected that Fikru would be hell bent for revenge. Matterazzi's gamble worked as Fikru disrupted ATK's rhythm. As he entered the field, he elbowed Sameegh Doutie, starting an argument. Minutes later, as all the ATK players were lurking in the opposition box looking for the third goal, Fikru nicked the ball from ATK's winger Nallapan Mohanraj and found an open goal in front of him as goalkeeper Amrinder was completely out of position. Fikru made no mistake as he dribbled past Amrinder, to put the ball into the goal, thus pourign water over ATK's hopes.

ATK coach Antonio Habas could not take in any more and was involved in a severe argument with the Japanese referee Yudai Yamamoto and after a few moments he was given marching orders. The tension continued to spill in the tunnel and in the dressing room even after the match as many ATK players were complaining about Chennaiyin player's football ethics.

Coming to the match, it was expected that ATK will go for a full offensive strategy to get as many goals as possible. Habas fielded a 3-4-3 formation which did wonders for the team as ATK kept launching attacks on the opposition box throughout the match. If not for the Chennaiyin keeper Edel Bete, who rightfully won the Hero of the Match Award, ATK could easily have been in the finals instead of Chennaiyin.

ATK probably played their best game of the season, with all their players determined to overcome the 3-0 deficit. Their grit was obvious in the field as they attacked as well defended strongly giving no chance whatsoever to Chennaiyin to dominate the game. The away team did get a chance early in the first half as their star player Mendoza's powerful shot was thwarted by Amrinder's full stretched left sided dive. Mendoza was the only one who troubling the ATK defence but Tiri, Arnab and Augustin defended valiantly to keep the Colombian at bay.

Two players were lucky not to have received red cards. One as Elano as he commited back to back fouls. He received a yellow card for the first but was spared for the second time, which many felt should have been another too. The other player was Mohanraj, who head butted Mendoza right in front of the eye's of the referee. He too was lucky to just have walked away with a yellow card.

But in the end, it was a tale of mischances and misfortune for ATK as they squandered a couple of chances which came their way. But nonetheless they won the heartsof the 68,000 strong crowd who came to support their team. Chennaiyin on the other hand, will now fly off to Goa to lock horns with FC Goa on Sunday for the final clash.

By Dipayan Saha