Indian champions ATK Mohun Bagan FC emerged Group D champion to qualify for the next-month Inter-Zonal Semifinal of the AFC Cup Football '2021 playing 1-1 draw with Bangladesh champions and 10-man Bashundhara Kings in a group deciding match at the National Football Stadium in Male, Maldives on Tuesday.
After the match, Indian super league champions ATK Mohun Bagan clinched group D crown with unbeaten run securing seven points from all the three matches to match to the knock out stage of the AFC Cup
Bangladesh Premier League (BPL) champions Kings finished group runners up, also with unbeaten run and eliminated from meet with five points from three group encounters.
On completion of the Maldives mission, ATK Mohun Bagan will now face either FC Nasaf of Uzbekistan or FC Ahal of Turkmenistan in the Inter-Zone semi-finals on September 22.
In the day's vital match, Brazilian midfielder Jonathan Fernandes put Bashundhara Kings ahead in the 28th minute by a sudden shot from danger zone making fool the Mohun Bagan custodian Amrinder Singh and the defenders (1-0).
Bashundhara looked to be on the way to a momentous victory when Brazilian midfielder Fernandes put them ahead just before the half-hour mark, but the momentum swung in ATK Mohun Bagan’s as Kings defender jSushanto Tripura was sent off in the dying seconds of the first half.
The Bangladesh Premier League champions had one foot in the knockout stage at one stage, but their cause suffered a heavy blow when defender Susanta Tripura was shown a straight red card in the stoppage time (45+3 minute) and forced to play with 10-man in the entire 2nd half.
Bashundhara Kings partly dominated the first half to take a 1-0 lead over the Indian champions. But the 10-men Kings failed display their usual game in the 2nd half and conceded a goal to eliminate from the meet.
Finally, Australian forward David William came to rescue the Mohun Bagan from danger scoring the match equaliser in the 62nd minute by an angular placing shot from close (1-1).
Bashundhara’s Robinho nearly turned the group on its head when his speculative curling cross-cum-shot effort bounced off the woodwork with six minutes remaining with the frustration of their fans.
However, ATK Mohun Bagan held on to claim the crucial one point, becoming the first Indian side since JSW Bengaluru FC in 2018 to advance to the knockout stage.
Earlier, Bashundhara Kings made good start beating Maldives champions Maziya Sports & Recreation Club by 2-0 goals and played a goalless with Bengaluru FC on India while Mohun Bagan of Kolkata made a flying start beating Bengaluru FC by 2-0 goals and defeated Maziya S&RC by 3-1 goals, all at the National Football Stadium in Male.