Indian club ATK Mohun Bagan reached the AFC Cup inter-zone semifinals after a 1-1 draw against Bangladesh’s Bashundhara Kings at the National Football Stadium here on Tuesday.
With seven points from three games, the Mariners topped Group D South Zone and advanced to the next round.
After Fernandes, the Bangladesh club’s best man on the pitch, put Bashundhara ahead in the 28th minute, David Williams scored for Mohun Bagan in 62nd minute to seal the draw. AKT played the entire second half with an extra man as the Kings’ Sushanto Tripura got a red card in first-half injury time.
Antonio Lopez Habas’ men will now play the winners of Wednesday’s match between FC Nasaf and Ahal FC. The inter-zone semifinal tie will be played next month.
Bashundhara Kings had lot of opportunities in the 14th minute to surge ahead as they created a number of chances. First through a header from a set-piece and then seconds later Irishman Carl McHugh had to come up with a goal-line clearance to deny the 2021 Bangladesh Premier League champions.
ATK Mohun Bagan got a golden opportunity to take the lead in the 18th minute but Liston Colaco, to the horror of his team-mates, failed to score when he had the entire goal to himself.
Five minutes later another chance went begging for the Mariners as R’y Krishna’s bicycle kick went just over the crossbar.
In the 28th minute, Bashundhara went ahead in the contest. Fernandes was given too much time and space in the box and he took full advantage of it and unleashed an angled right-footed shot from the left past goalkeeper Amrinder Singh to stun the Kolkata-based side.
In the 40th minute, Krishna came tantalising close to equalising but his shot from inside the box was blocked by a Kings defender. Three minutes later Williams tested Kings goalkeeper Anisur Rahman Zico from distance and forced him into a diving save.
The Kings were overly aggressive all through the first half as four yellow cards would attest but things really went haywire for them when Sushanto Tripura was shown a red card for his aggression against Subhasish Bose in first-half injury time.
Even though the Mariners went into the break trailing, they would have backed themselves to make their man advantage count in the second half.
The Kings, as expected, started the second half with a lot of emphasis on defence and it took ATK Mohun Bagan a while to get going. In the 60th minute, Bose put a nice ball in along the ground across the goa’ but Krishna couldn’t reach in time.
Two minutes later, Williams found the equaliser for the Mariners. Colaco made up for the miss earlier in the match and after dodging a defender on the left, laid the ball off for the Australian striker to find the back of the net with all the nonchalance in the world.
In the 72nd minute, Williams again brought Zico into action through a well-hit strike from distance. The Kings goalkeeper made a fabulous save as he dove to his left to thwart the danger.
Bashundhara stepped on the gas in the last 10 minutes or so but the ATK Mohun Bagan defenders were equal to th’ task in the box and didn’t give the opposition attackers any time and space, and the match eventually ended in a 1-1 draw, just the result the Mariners needed.