Laxmikant Kattimani charged forward to punch out a long hopeful heave into his box. It was a good decision, some would argue, by the goalkeeper to come forward and punch the ball away, or catch it and hold onto it and run down the clock.
Should that have happened, FC Goa would have won the 2015 Indian Super League title with a 2-1 win. Only, the man from Goa, in the 89th minute, in front of his home fans at the Fatorda Stadium, made a mess of the lob and ended up with an own-goal that levelled proceedings. He’d concede another goal a minute later.
On Sunday, Kattimani stood in goal at the same venue again, seven years later, for another ISL final. This time he was playing for Hyderabad FC, facing a Kerala Blasters team – both hoping for their first title. And this time, Kattimani would walk out as ‘Hero of the Match.’
The 32-year-old pulled off three solid saves in the penalty shootout to help his team come up a 3-1 win in the tiebreaker, after a 1-1 scoreline at the end of extra time.
By the 68th minute though, Kattimani would have had that awful flashback-moment from 2015.
Rahul KP found the ball for the Blasters and marched forward on the right flank. Finding no other option, he went for goal from 25 yards out, with a powerful low drive that should not have been too difficult for a player of Kattimani’s experience to save.
The keeper though was slow on his dive and got a feeble hand to the ball before it crashed into the net.
It was a goal that gave Hyderabad FC the cue to start pushing forward with urgency as it was the Blasters who had till then dictated possession and play.
The equaliser did come though, in the 88th minute.
Substitute Sahil Tavora pounced onto a weakly cleared header and volleyed spectacularly from distance.
With the scores tied at 1-1, extra time was required.
Hyderabad FC had better possession and were more threatening to score.
Bartholomew Ogbeche, who scored 18 goals this season, came within an inch of the post when an overhead kick went just wide.
A few minutes later though, Blasters’ Jeakson Singh’s header struck the crossbar to ensure the scores remained level. This was the second time Blasters hit the crossbar after Alvaro Vazquez’s strike from just inside the box at the end of the first half rattled the woodwork.
Eventually a shootout was needed to separate the two teams that matched each other from strength to strength on the pitch.
And then it was Kattimani who proved to be the difference. It was joy for Hyderabad FC, who won the ISL title in the first time of asking. The wait, however, continues for the Blasters who were denied for the third time in the summit clash of India’s marquee football league.