In a thrilling title encounter, Atletico de Kolkata has outclassed arch-rivals Kerela Blasters on their home turf by defeating them in the penalty shoot-out 4-3 to be crowned as Indian Super League champions for the second time in three years.
In a nerve-wracking penalty shootout amid the thrills of season finale after a below-par display for 120 minutes game ended with one goal each in both team's tally.
No wonder ATK’s marquee co-owner Sourav Ganguly along with Sanjeev Goenka were glad and ecstatic after beating Kerala Blasters which is co-owned by Sachin Tendulkar.
India international Jewel Raja successfully converted the fifth penalty as the 55,000 capacity crowd at the Nehru Stadium in Kochi went stunned into silence.
At ISL 2014 in the season 1 finale, ATK had beaten Kerala Blasters 1-0 in Mumbai.
It was the first penalty shootout at the finale in three editions of the cash-rich league.
Besides Jewel Raja, Sameehg Doutie, Borja Fernandez and Javier Lara found the target in the shootout while Iain Hume’s shot was blocked by Kerala goalkeeper Graham Stack.
For Kerala Blasters, who came into the match after winning six times on the trot before today’s match, Antonio German, Kervens Belfort and Mohammed Rafique scored while Elhadji Ndoye and Cedric Hengbart failed to find the target.
The match was devoid of any extraordinary moments in the form of twists and turns, which was there in the summit clash of 2015 season.
ATK’s tournament second highest goal-scorer Hume was quiet most duration of the match as he was not given space by Kerala defenders.
Visiting side marquee player Helder Postiga was out of sorts and substituted in the 68th minute. Kerala forwards CK Vineeth and Duckens Nazon also failed to impress after a top-class performance till this summit showdown at their home venue where a capacity crowd turned up to cheer them.
There were no surprises in the starting eleven of both the teams with Atletico de Kolkata bringing in marquee player Helder Postiga, league second highest scorer Iain Hume and Sameehg Doutie after ‘resting’ them in the second-leg semifinals against Mumbai City FC.
Kerala Blasters, on the other hand, left out their second-leg semifinal penalty shootout victory hero Sandip Nandy in favour of former Arsenal goalkeeper Graham Stack.
With full-to-the-brim crowd egging them on, Kerala started off with a series of attacks but without any serious threat at the ATK goal. Kerala Blasters’ India striker CK Vineeth sent a fine pass from the flanks in the second minute but none of his team-mates were in position to convert.
In the 10th minute, Kerala’s Kervens Belfort played Mohammed Rafi through inside the box and the former India forward looked to finish it with a powerful shot but Jose Arroyo was just on time to block it.