ATK Mohun Bagan moved closer to AFC Cup 2022 group stage qualification with an emphatic 5-0 win over Blue Star SC of Sri Lanka at the Salt Lake Stadium in Kolkata on Tuesday. (More Football News)
Playing without some of their key players such as Sandesh Jhingan, Roy Krishna and Liston Colaco, the Juan Ferrando-coached side did not have any trouble whatsoever and pumped in three goals in the space of 15 minutes.
Joni Kauko struck a double (24th, 39th), including one from a penalty, on either side of Manvir Singh's 29th-minute strike to virtually seal their playoff berth. Australian recruit David Williams (77th) and Manvir (89th) completed the route against the hapless Blue Star SC who struggled to put up a fight.
The Mariners will now face Abahani Limited of Dhaka here on April 19. Without their star Fijian forward Roy Krishna who has flown back home after the death of a close family member, Hugo Buomous was sensational against the Blue Star defenders.
Buomous initiated the move from the right side of the box with a brilliant run and found Kauko on the rebound before the Finland international slotted it home. Manvir doubled the lead after winning an aerial duel with Blue Star goalkeeper Kaveesh.
Blue Star midfielder Prince Boadu's handball gave ATKMB a penalty and Kauko converted it without any fuss to make it 3-0 at the break. Manvir then set it up for Willimas to make it 4-0 with a low cross from the midfield.
The India international completed ATKMB's domination when he outran the Blue Star goalkeeper Kaveesh to bring up his brace. The Mariners dominated the possession and did not give the young Blue Star players any chance.
ATKMB also did not have their regular goalkeeper Amrinder Singh but Arsh Anwar did a neat job, saving a first-half attempt by Prince in what was the Sri Lankan side's solitary chance. Playing their first match at their home venue after the pandemic broke out, ATKMB were cheered on by close to 25,000 spectators.
Abahani Limited of Dhaka advanced into the play-off stage after their Preliminary Round 2 (South) opponents Club Valencia of Maldives have pulled out of the competition. The winners between ATK Mohun Bagan and Abahani Limited of Dhaka will book the final place in Group D.
The AFC Cup 2022 Group D, which comprises India’s Gokulam Kerala, Bashundhara Kings from Bangladesh and Maziya Sports and Recreation of the Maldives is scheduled to take place in Kolkata, India, from May 18 to 24, 2022.