Mumbai City FC showed little signs of their ordeal in flood-hit Chennai as they edged out defending champions Atletico de Kolkata 3-2 in their concluding round match of the Indian Super League.
In a battle between the two teams at the opposite ends of the table, the match had fluctuating fortunes but it was Sony Norde’s brace (26th and 90+4th) aided with Sunil Chetri’s 82nd minute penalty that halted the table toppers three-match winning run.
Having already sealed the semis berth and aiming a top-two finish, the home side looked complacent and lacklustre as Iain Hume (45+2nd) restored parity from the spotkick before Izumi Arata made it 2-2 with his 90th minute goal.
It was the Mohun Bagan forward who sealed a fine win for the Mumbai side but the victory came a little late as they’ve already crashed out of the tournament.
Stranded in Chennai where the submerged airport had shut operations, MCFC, who were to arrive on Wednesday landed only this morning after travelling by road to Tirupati Air Base but they showed little fatigue to overcome ATK’s resistance and put up their first win from eight matches.
ATK concluded the group league with 23 points but their position in the points table will depend on the match between Delhi Dynamos and FC Goa.
The Nicolas Anelka side, on the other hand, finished with 16 points at the Vivekananda Yuva Bharati Krirangan.
MCFC thus avenged their first leg defeat to ATK as this was their third loss at home and fifth overall this season.
ATK had thrashed Mumbai 4-1 in the first leg in a match where Hume had opened his account with a hattrick and the Canadian International has not looked back since then.
ATK had another setback as their captain Borja Fernandez picked his fourth yellow card and will miss out on the first leg of the semifinal, the date and opponents of which is yet to be decided.
Fresh from their hattrick of wins at home, the defending champions found the going tough and missed their sting up front as the visitors took the lead against the run of play.
Having landed here this morning following their ordeal in the flood-hit Chennai, MCFC put up a spirited display and Sony Norde put them ahead in the 26th minute after Selim Benachour played a lovely through and the Haitian dispatched his leftfooted shot into the far corner.
ATK restored parity through a first half injury time penalty when Pratesh Shirodkar tripped Mohammad Rafique inside the box and Iain Hume buried the spotkick with a clinical finish to join Stiven Mendoza at the top of the goalscoring chart with 10 goals.
Putting pressure right from the word go, Antonio Habas’ men got a first minute freekick which was brilliantly sent in by Gavilan but Doutie missed the kick from an acute angle in what could have been a rousing start for the home side.
Before ATK could intensify the attack, it was turn of the Mumbai team to get into action and aided by Selim Benachour’s creative display from the midfield the visitors almost went ahead in the seventh minute.
The Tunisian central midfielder played a nice ball over the top of Chhetri but the Indian captain’s shot was thwarted by ATK goalkeeper Calatayud.
ATK too had their first real chance two minutes later, when Gavilan brilliantly set up Hume in a one-on-one position but the Canadian missed the target as it was Norde who drew the first blood to put MCFC ahead.
After Hume’s equaliser, Chhetri once again put MCFC ahead after Juan Aguilera was brought down inside the box by Tiri as the Indian captain finished with seventh goal of the season converting with a cool composure.
But there was more drama in store when ATK put the packed 61,276 crowd on their feet with Arata scoring in the dying minutes blasting the volley back into the net from a pass from Dejan Lekic.
More action followed as Benachour set up brilliantly for
Norde who took a deft touch to finish at the near post and earn the team full points.
Earlier, ATK made three changes to their concluding league match of the season by replacing goalkeeper Amrinder Singh with Juan Calatayud, while Nallapan Mohanraj was brought up at the leftback in place of Ofentse Nato and Rafique too got a start in place of Augustin Fernandes.
Having already been eliminated, MCFC on the other hand made five changes with Keegan Pereira, Pavel Cmovs, Pratesh Shirodkar, Selim Benachour and Thangjam Saran Singh in the XI.