TWO TIME Hero Indian Super League champions ATK, came up with a commanding performance to beat Hero I-League outfit Chennai City FC 4-1, in the fourth and final qualifying game of the Hero Super Cup, at the Kalinga stadium in Bhubaneshwar, Odisha.
They now move on to the main draw of the tournament beginning on March 31, and will face FC Goa on April 3.
ATK dominated possession throughout the first half and pressed high consistently although they couldn’t find the back of the net for all their efforts. Brazilian Zequinha tormented the Chennai down the left. His focus being to deliver the ball to Irish man Robbie Keane.
In the 29th minute, Zequiniha put one in off a loopy curler from Mbatha from the right corner flag, but the ball went out for a goal kick. A malfunctioning floodlight held proceedings but the game sprung back to life as Hitesh Sharma drilled in a brilliant left-footer off a loose ball from an ATK corner into the Chennai City net, beating custodian Kabir all ends up. 1-0 to ATK in the 43rd minute.
Just when it seemed ATK would take their lead into half-time Chennai struck when Edwin Sydney Vanspaul’s cross found Joachim, who went low to neatly place his header past Sonam Poirei into the ATK goal. The teams thereby stood even 1-1 at the break.
ATK began the 2nd half on a more enterprising note as Robin Singh missed a one on one with Chennai goalkeeper Kabir when he hit it straight to him from close range.
In the 57th minute, Zequinha, who was easily the best player of the match on both sides, initiated a move from the left, finding captain and coach Keene inside the box. Keene ran in further into the box and cut back to find Mbatha for a crucial layoff to an onrushing Zequinha to finish the move he had started. ATK with a 2-1 lead now.
To their credit, Chennai did come back strong after conceding the lead for a second time in the match and dominated proceedings for the next 15-20 minutes largely due to the efforts of Soosairaj and Joachim. Joachim failed to curl in a right-footed free kick from just outside the box in the 70th minute and Sonam Porei saved another Joachim shot in the 81st minute.
Although Ashutosh Mehta had put the issue almost beyond Chennai’s reach, when in the 76th minute, off a Zequinha corner, Kabir muffed his clearance and the ball fell invitingly to Ashutosh’s feet from the resulting melee for an easy tap in.
Robbie Keene then settled the issue in the 84th minute, the Irishman controlled Zequiha’s ball, took a couple of strides forward and tapped it into the far right corner of Kabir’s goal post. An unassailable 4-1 lead showing ATK’s dominance.