Defending champions Atletico de Kolkata (ATK) pulled off a 2-1 win against Chennaiyin FC in a high-voltage encounter but lost out on aggregate (2-4) to crash out of the Indian Super League (ISL) in the semi-finals at the Salt Lake stadium here on Wednesday.
In the first leg of the semi-final clash at Pune, Atletico had lost 0-3 and in the second leg failed to overturn the deficit against Chennaiyin, who now face FC Goa in the final on December 20.
For ATK it was Serbian striker Dejan Lekic and Iain Hume who netted the goals, while for Chennaiyin it was substitute Fikru Teferra who got into the scoresheet.
On the verge of the crushing defeat, a frustrated Atletico coach Antonio Lopez Habas was directed by the referee to leave the touchline after an altercation at the closing stages of the encounter.
Earlier, the hosts were quick to get off the blocks and could have had an early in the fourth minute of the contest but Lekic rattled the side-netting with a strong right footer.
As Atletico pressed forward in numbers, it left some huge open spaces at the back, allowing the opposition to catch them on counter-attack. And they almost did, as Stiven Mendoza made them pay with a solo run cutting through the ATK defence but his shot was thwarted away brilliantly by Amrinder Singh diving to his right.
It was finally a mistake from Chennaiyin defender Bernard Mendy which led to the hosts scoring their opener. Mendy tried to head back his goalkeeper Edel Bete the ball but Lekic somehow got in between them and tapped it into the net bringing the 68,340 people to their feet.
Egged on by the vociferous supporters, ATK kept on creating waves of attack and Bete had to be on his toes to deny Arata Izumi once and then Sameegh Doutie. The latter’s low shot nearly crept in but Bete denied him with a strong right hand as the scoreline read 1-0 in favour of the hosts.
It was high drama after the breather as Chennai and Atletico both stepped on the gas. At the 55th minute mark, Doutie tried darting into space with the ball but was heavily brought down by Thoi Singh and the Chennaiyin defender was shown the yellow card. Amidst confusion ATK’s Nallapan Mohanraj decided to take matters into his own hands and headbutted Mendoza, however, the right-back got away with just a yellow card.
A few minutes later Bete was once again pressed into action as he acrobatically tipped off a Tiri header over the bar.
Lekic then tried his luck with a free-kick, though it crashed into the wall, the rebound fell kindly in the way of Izumi but his shot was blocked by a defender just before the goal line.
The game sprung into life again as Hume, with an assist from Lekic, found the net with a crisp volley which gave ATK a glimmer of hope in the last few minutes.
But then an error from defender Arnab Mandal and goalkeeper Amrinder let substitute Fikru through on goal, and the Ethiopian calmly slotted it in for Chennai’s first of the night and fourth of the tie, breaking the hearts of the ATK fans at the stadium.