10-men Atletico de Kolkata sealed their place in Indian Super League final with a fighting goalless draw against Mumbai City FC at Mumbai Football Arena in Mumbai on Tuesday.
Atletico de Kolkata had won the first leg 3-2 at home and needed only a draw to enter the final for the second time in three years.
The visitors were handicapped in the first half itself when, in the 42nd minute, Robert Lalthlamuana was sent off for his second yellow card but Atletico de Kolkata put all their experience to good use as they shut out Mumbai City in the second half.
Atletico de Kolkata will now meet the winners of second semi-final between Delhi Dynamos and Kerala Blasters in the title showdown in Kochi on Sunday.
Mumbai City FC will be disappointed that they could not get the desired result despite having an upperhand in second session. The home team took 17 shots out of which four were on target but none of them could beat rival goalkeeper Debjit Majumder. ATK had just one shot on goal throughout the 90 minutes game.
Mumbai City had the best chance early to snatch the advantage but striker Sunil Chhetri was found wanting in the sixth minute. Lucian Goian had done well to send a through ball which Chhetri controlled after beating the off-side trap. The Indian striker was in a one-on-one situation with the goalkeeper but disappointingly couldn’t get it past a diving Majumder.
Atletico de Kolkata too had their chance in the opening half with Javi Lara pulling the strings. Lara found Abinash Ruidas and the left-back strung a delightful cross which was punched away by the goalkeeper. But to Kolkata’s good fortunes, it fell for Lalrindika Ralte, whose decent shot from inside the box was blocked by a rival defender.
The game’s defining moment came in the 42nd minute when Robert was booked for the second time. The ATK defender had clipped Matias Defederico from behind while the latter was on a superb run and the referee promptly sent him off.
The home side probably missed the expertise of their marquee player and captain Diego Forlan, who was suspended for this clash. Forlan’s class with set-pieces was missed and even though Mumbai had the player advantage in second session, they could not make it count.
In the second session, Mumbai City seemed determined to wipe off the deficit but fell way too short. Their best chance came only in the 87th minute when Mumbai counter-attacked through Sony Norde on the left. The Haitian midfielder squared it for Goian who didn’t get a good touch. Mumbai still had a chance as the ball fell for Jackichand Singh who did not help his team’s chances by aiming at the sky.