ATK and Chennaiyin will battle for a piece of history in the Indian Super League final in Goa on Saturday as both teams look to become the first team to win three titles.
While the Kolkata side have been consistent throughout the season, finishing in the second spot in the standings behind only FC Goa, Chennaiyin made a remarkable recovery after a poor start to the season to reach the semi-finals as the fourth-placed team.
Owen Coyle’s men then saw off league stage winners FC Goa 6-5 in the semi-finals to book their place in the showpiece event. ATK on the other hand, beat Bengaluru FC 3-2 on aggregate to make it to their third final.
Going into the final, there’s nothing to separate the two teams if their head-to-head record this season is concerned with both teams winning a game apiece against each other. ATK edged a close affair in Chennai to win 1-0 at the start of the campaign, while the Super Machans prevailed 3-1 in another tightly-fought affair in Kolkata much later in the campaign.
Here’s a throwback to these two meetings as we assess what those two matches tell us about the two teams ahead of the final.
Chennaiyin 0-1 ATK, October 30, 2019
Chennaiyin XI (4-2-3-1): Vishal Kaith (GK), Eli Sabia, Lucian Goian (C), Tondonba Singh, Anirudh Thapa, Dragos Firtulescu, Edwin Vanspaul, Lallianzuala Chhangte, Rafael Crivellaro, Dhanpal Ganesh, Nerijus Valskis.
ATK XI (3-5-2): Arindam Bhattacharja (GK), Anas Edathodika, Prabir Das, Pritam Kotal (C), Agustin Iniguez, Pronay Halder, Carl McHugh, Javier Hernandez, David Williams, Michael Soosairaj, Roy Krishna.
Goalscorers - ATK: David Williams (48’)
It was just the third game of the season for both teams who came into the game with contrasting feelings. Chennaiyin had managed just one point from their first two games and had failed to score in the competition in their first two games.
ATK, on the other hand, had won their previous encounter 5-0 after suffering defeat in their first game.
Chennaiyin, still under John Gregory at the time, dominated proceedings with 58 per cent possession and had 16 shots in the game compared to ATK’s six. However, the Super Machans failed to convert a host of chances that came their way before David Williams put away one early in the second half.
Arindam Bhattacharja had an inspired game in goal for ATK as they held on for their first away win of the season.
Chennaiyin were especially threatening from the left side where Lallianzuala Chhangte exploited the space behind ATK’s wing-back Prabir Das, who found it difficult to deal with the young winger’s pace. However, Chennaiyin didn’t have their finishing boots on and failed to take anything from the game.
ATK 1-3 Chennaiyin, February 16, 2020
Chennaiyin XI (4-2-3-1): Vishal Kaith (GK), Eli Sabia, Lucian Goian (C), Laldinliana Renthlei, Jerry Lalrinzuala, Anirudh Thapa, Edwin Vanspaul, Lallianzuala Chhangte, Rafael Crivellaro, Andre Schembri, Nerijus Valskis.
ATK XI (3-5-2): Arindam Bhattacharja (GK), Anas Edathodika, Victor Mongil, Pritam Kotal (C), Prabir Das, Sumit Rathi, Armando Sosa Pena, Jayesh Rane, Javier Hernandez, Edu Garcia, Roy Krishna.
ATK: Roy Krishna (40’);
Chennaiyin: Rafael Crivellaro (7’), Andre Schembri (39’), Nerijus Valskis (90’)
The much recent contest between the two teams provides a much better idea of what the contest would be like in the final.
Coyle’s line-up in that game could exactly be the same on Saturday with the new manager sticking to those exact players for most parts of the team’s winning run.
Antonio Habas has moved on from the team he selected in that game with John Johnson replacing Victor Mongil in defence and Michael Soosairaj playing in the wing-back role, pushing Sumit Rathi in central defence.
The switch allows ATK to carry a much bigger threat while going forward with Soosairaj being a naturally attacking player, while Rathi who can play in the full-back positions, is comfortable to defend even if he is dragged out of position by the wingers who attack the space behind the full-backs.
In that game at the Salt Lake, Chennaiyin exploited those spaces vacated by the wing-backs to perfection with Chhangte running riot on the right. The forward missed many chances in the game but his pace meant the Super Machans created plenty of openings from that side.
On the flip side, Prabir Das caused Chhangte loads of problems at the other end of the field, constantly making runs behind the defence and delivering crosses for Roy Krishna. His combination with the Fijian forward has been a potent one for ATK this season.
Thus, this battle on Chennaiyin’s left flank and ATK’s right flank between Chhangte and Das could well decide the contest. The two-time champions won it that day and hence pocketed the game. But ATK were slightly unfortunate after Krishna’s goal from Das’s cross was disallowed for a very marginal offside call.
Chennaiyin showed a weakness while defending crosses in their last game against Goa and the Das-Krishna combo could exploit that on Saturday. Lucian Goian and Eli Sabia will have their hands full with tracking the wily ATK forward.
In their two meetings so far, both Chennaiyin and ATK created plenty of chances. In the end, it was the team that finished better emerged on top. The final on Saturday could well be decided by the same factor.