Atletico de Kolkata (ATK) ended the league phase of ISL3 the way they began it, with a draw; their eighth, which is the same as bottom-rankers FC Goa. But that their striker Juan Beloncoso could have got a hattrick or more on most other evenings would be a better indicator of how things unfolded.
ATK rested seven regulars and fielded six Indians, one more than the minimum required. FC Pune City too did that and left out a slew of starters such as Jonatan Lucca, Edel Bete, Gouramangi Singh and Eugeneson Lyngdoh — who didn’t travel — but it was the bench-warmers in the opposition ranks who showed greater hunger. Going into the semi-finals that looks like a problem ATK coach Jose Molina won’t complain about.
The home team attacked FC Pune City’s full backs Rahul Bheke and Narayan Das through Abinash Ruidas and Bidyananda Singh. Traffic in the first half was one way. Ruidas and Singh’s crosses are works in progress but even then Beloncoso alone could have scored more than what ATK have in any game this term.
After breaking out of a defensive sandwich in the 19th minute, he headed Ruidas’ delivery into the side-netting. Two minutes later, Beloncoso ballooned over from close another delivery, this time by Keegan Pereira, who was fed by Ruidas on the left. And in the 52nd, Beloncoso couldn’t get a touch on a Singh cross from the right. It was four in the 78th when the Spaniard failed to direct in substitute Stephen Pearson’s effort palmed in his direction by Arindam Bhattacharya.
Javi Lara, one of the first team players started by Molina, tested Bhattacharya — like Lyngdoh, shot-stopper Bete wasn’t on the team sheet — twice but his fourth minute free-kick and 17th minute drive, after a strong run down the middle following a pass from Kinshuk Debnath, were close to the FC Pune City goalie.
After an error from Prabir Das which Momar Ndoye latched on to before Anibal Rodriguez blasted over and on the break in the 34th minute when Ndoye drove wide, FC Pune City next attacked after the hour mark and it was dealt with by Das. The first time ATK goalie Daniel Mello was tested was near the final quarter when he kept out a Dramane Traore effort.