2020-21 Indian Super League, Regular Season
  • Roy Krishna (85' PEN)

ISL 2020-21: Ferrando blinks first as ATKMB pip Goa with Roy Krishna special

Roy Krishna celebrates scoring the only goal of the match between ATK Mohun Bagan and FC Goa. Vipin Pawar / Sportzpics for ISL

For an hour, Antonio Habas and Juan Ferrando played a game of who-blinks-first. When you get drawn into that by Habas, there can only ever be one winner -- Roy Krishna scores, ATK Mohun Bagan win, and that's what happened.

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Ferrando sent out his Goa team out there to control the game. Alberto Noguera and Edu Bedia and Lenny Rodrigues are essentially the same footballer and they spent most of that first hour passing the ball amongst themselves, leaving Igor Angulo all alone, a beacon of orange in a sea of green and maroon.

Habas sent out his ATKMB to do what ATKMB do in every big game. The standard 5-3-2 was shelved for a 4-3-3 but all that's on the paper. On the field, they had nine outfielders behind the ball, a mass of ten human bodies simply blocking Goa's path. They didn't give them an inch, tackles were full-blooded and frequent, and the ball was an unnecessary adornment. Goa's sideways passing simply played into their hands.

It was an hour that would have intrigued the football purist -- organisation v possession, low block v a passing machine. It was also an hour that would have put most non-football-purist-insomniacs to sleep.

And then Ferrando blinked.

First came Brandon Fernandes, a man who cannot help but pass it forward. Then came Jorge Ortiz, a man who cannot help but turn and run at defences with the ball at feet. Brandon's passing pushed ATKMB deeper and deeper, Ortiz running had them panicking. The latter almost rewarded Ferrando's bravery with a superb run into the box that was upended by Carl McHugh. One of those should-have-could-have decisions that can make or break a game. The referee waved the penalty appeal away, and ATKMB went back to holding fort against wave after wave of orange-tinged attack. McHugh put in a superb tackle to stop Noguera, Arindam Bhattacharya raced off his line to smother an Angulo attempt.

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In the 85th minute, they countered. Roy Krishna ran onto a hopeful punt of a clearance, ripping into the box. Now, to introduce Ortiz, Ferrando had sacrificed the experience of Ivan Gonzalez in the middle of his defence, instead one of his more creative foreign players, and (his replacement) Aibanbha Dohling couldn't handle Krishna. Out went a leg, down went Krishna. Penalty. Bottom corner.

The last ten minutes (including five of stoppage time) was manic, Goa throwing themselves at the ATKMB defence, coming close on occasion -- Saviour Gama had a thunderous strike tipped over, Noguera had a header saved, Bedia completely missed a header from seven yards out -- but never close enough.

Ferrando had been frustrated out of his modified plan A by Habas, and so one of the ISL's great truisms played itself out. 22 men chase a ball around for ninety minutes, Roy Krishna scores sometime in between, ATK Mohun Bagan win.

They now go level on points with Mumbai City FC, 13 points in six, behind only on goal difference. They face Bengaluru FC next on the 21st. Goa remain stranded in the middle, eight points in six, a good run of results halted just as they were building up steam. They face struggling Chennaiyin on the 19th, and will hope that this was just a minor blip, one that so many sides have run into over the last season and a bit - a Roy Krishna 1-0 special.