Lady luck smiled on Atletico de Kolkata when it mattered the most. Down by a goal at half-time against FC Goa at the Salt Lake Stadium on Wednesday, they were staring at elimination. But a penalty, awarded by referee Baldomero Toledo on 66 minutes, saved them.
It was a poor decision. Kolkata striker Fikru Lemessa cut inside the penalty area and stumbled. Goa centre-half Bruno Pinheiro was at least a foot behind. There was never any contact but Toledo pointed to the spot. Worse, he sent off Pinheiro when a booking for Lemessa was due.
The hosts perhaps deserved this bit of fortune. They were denied a goal, and a point, against Kerala Blasters a couple of weeks ago. Luis Garcia’s chip had crossed the goal line at least by a foot then. And as Lemessa converted the penalty, the team must have felt that this game is a great leveller. A 1-0 loss would have eliminated them on goal difference, paving the way for Delhi Dynamos instead.
But Atletico Kolkata had the last laugh. They finished third with 19 points and will face Goa again at home in the first leg of the semifinal on Sunday. Chennaiyin FC will meet Kerala Blasters in the other semifinal.
All, however, is not well for Atletico Kolkata. Cohesion, and more importantly team spirit, has been an issue. Lemessa shoved team mate Jakub Podany on the pitch after the latter failed to provide a lay-off on 80 minutes. Lopez Habas needs to get the act together.
Semifinal line-up: december 13: (KOCHI) Kerala Blasters vs Chennaiyin FC;
December 14: (KOLKATA) Atletico de Kolkata vs FC Goa; december 16: (CHENNAI) Chennaiyin FC vs Kerala Blasters;
December 17: (goa) FC Goa vs Atletico de Kolkata; (Matches start 7 pm)