By Debayan Mukherjee
Fatorda, March 14 (IANS) ATK rode Spanish midfielder Javi Hernandez’s brace to defeat Chennaiyin FC 3-1 and grab their third Indian Super League (ISL) title, the most by any team so far, in a riveting closed-door final at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Goa on Saturday.
Hernandez (10′, 90+3′) opened the scoring for the 2014 and 2016 winners and capped off their summit clash with a stoppage time winner as ATK’s Spanish coach Antonio Habas became the most successful coach in the competition’s history, having guided them to the inaugural 2014 crown as well.
Edu Garcia (48th) doubled ATK’s lead before Nerijus Valkis (69th) pulled one back for two-time winners Chennaiyin.
But deep into second half stoppage time, Garcia — who had not found the back of the net before the final — rounded goalkeeper Vishal Kaith after being teed up by Pronay Halder to score and break into wild celebrations.
Due to the coronavirus outbreak, the final had to be played behind closed doors. There were however about 200 people in the stadium as part of the organisers, media, and security inside the stadium besides the players and officials.
But there was no dearth of intensity as both teams looked eager to break the deadlock as early as possible.
Chennaiyin had the first chance to nose ahead in the fourth minute when Valkis’ effort came off the crossbar from close range.
ATK broke the deadlock as Hernandez scored his first goal of the season.
John Johnson sent a long ball for Roy Krishna who whizzed past Eli Sabia on the left side of the box to drill a cross which David Williams dummied for Hernandez to score brilliantly on the half volley.
Hernandez could have added to his tally in the 23rd minute but a superb goal line clearance by Laldinliana Renthlei saved Chennaiyin their blushes.
At the other end, Malta striker Andre Schembri forced Arindam Bhattacharya into an acrobatic save just after the half-hour mark from a Rafael Crivellaro free kick.
ATK were dealt a body blow five minutes before halftime when Krishna had to be substituted after he clutched his left hamstring in pain and could not continue. The Fiji striker was replaced by Armando Pena.
ATK doubled their adaturday with the office-bearers of Bharat Diamond Bourse (BDB) and the Gem & Jewellery Export Promotion Council (GJEPC) to discuss ways and means to keep diamond factories and workshops free of coronavirus, especially since it employs a large number of youth from Gujarat and Maharashtra.
Earlier, the IIT-Bombay announced suspension of all classrooms and laboratory instructions till March 29 besides imposing a series of precautionary restrictions on students, foreigners, day scholars and hostellers, faculty, staff, visitors etc.
Meanwhile, health officials said that the condition of all the patients undergoing treatment at various isolation wards around the state is “stable”.