The green and maroon brigade of ATK Mohun Bagan have qualified for the inter-zone semi-finals of the AFC Cup 2021 after topping the group that had teams from South Asia. They remained unbeaten throughout the group stage; with this becoming the eighth instance that an Indian club has qualified for the knockout stage of the AFC Cup.
Here’s a look at how they achieved this feat in the AFC Cup 2021.
A BRIGHT START
They started the tournament with a convincing 2-0 win over a familiar foe in Bengaluru FC in the first match of the group stage. Next up was the home team from Male, Maziya SRC. The Mariners followed up their opening day win with another comfortable 3-1 win over the host nation’s team. The showdown was set up for the final match of the group stage. Both ATK Mohun Bagan and the Bangladesh Premier League champions, Bashundra Kings were eyeing the top spot in Group D, with the topper qualifying for the inter-zone semi-finals.
The Mariners were without their new star signing Hugo Boumous who was suspended for accumulating too many yellow cards in the previous matches. The match started in an unusual manner as Antonio Lopez Habas’ side found themselves 0-1 down in the 28th minute. They kept creating chances but lacked composure in the final third. Bashundra found themselves a man down just on the brink of half-time and this was the moment the Mariners knew they needed to take advantage of. They came into the second half with more purpose and were moving the ball a lot quicker. Aussie superstar David Williams found the back of the net with an easy tap in that was put on a platter by winger Liston Colaco.
A draw was enough to keep the Mariners at the top of the table and progress to the knockout stage of the competition. They now face the winners of the Central Asian Zone, Uzbekistan’s FC Nasaf. They have enjoyed an unbeaten run in the group stage of the AFC Cup 2021, having won all three encounters and are still to concede in the competition. It is almost a decade since the club had last played in an edition of the AFC Cup, as they last appeared in 2011 when they clinched the trophy.
The match will be played in Uzbekistan and ATK Mohun Bagan would be the away team. Coach Habas has given the players a two-week break till they reunite to prepare for this cracker of a game that will be played on September 21, 2021.
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