Australian star forward David Williams scored a brilliant hat-trick under pressure as ATK Mohun Bagan survived some anxious moments to down Abahani Limited Dhaka 3-1 and make the AFC Cup main round in Kolkata on Tuesday. (More Football News)
In a do-or-die playoff fixture at the Salt Lake Stadium, ATKMB were in cruise mode in the first half and in no time they had a 2-0 cushion, with Williams scoring a brace (6th, 30th).
The Aussie completed his hat-trick with five minutes left on the clock but it came after much drama, even as the home crowd of about 32,000 heaved a sigh of relief.
The six-time Bangladesh Premier League champions, who looked lacklustre in the first half, showed that they were no pushovers as they found a way back into the match with less than 30 minutes left.
Costa Rican recruit Daniel Colindres easily slotted the ball past an out-of-place Amrinder Singh to reduce the margin.
Suddenly the local favourites started to buckle under pressure as Abahani made some promising raids. Their substitute Jewel Rana almost scored a goal from the right side of the box but his shot went inches wide.
Moments later, Nurul Faisal curled in a cross from the left flank to Rakib Hossain inside the box but his shot went wide.
The Mario Lemos-coached side kept threatening, even as ATKMB's Colaco and substitute Kiyan Nassiri missed two easy chances.
With nothing going in their way, it was Frenchman Hugo Boumous who produced a magical thorough ball from the midfield, and the Aussie raided into an open net to seal the issue.
ATKMB thus joined Gokulam Kerala, Bashundhara Kings (Bangladesh) and Maziya Sports and Recreation (Maldives) in the group D of the AFC Cup main round.
They will take on Gokulam Kerala in their group opener on May 18.
Earlier, the local giants got a big boost with a fit-again Amrinder Singh, who had a niggle, back in goal, while Liston Colaco also returned to the attack.
With Colaco back in the left wing, the urgency was evident right at the start as he initiated a much-important move to set it up for an advancing Kauko.
The Finnish midfielder drilled in a clinical cross to Williams inside the box, who slammed home the lead for the Mariners.
Colaco grew into confidence after the early onslaught as he made some brilliant raids from the left flank, giving the Abahani defence a tough time.
Prabir Das controlled the game from the right flank and almost gave Kauko a blast into an open net but his shot went over the crosspiece almost at the halfway mark.
It was Das who set up Williams with a long ball and the latter brought on his double as ATKMB looked unstoppable.
The home team led 2-0 at the break but could have scored at least a couple more by then.