final showdown

Mumbai: After nearly 10 weeks of exciting action featuring 60 scintillating encounters, a mouth-watering clash between Atletico de Kolkata and Kerala Blasters promises to provide the perfectly high-voltage finale to the inaugural Indian Super League football tournament here tomorrow.

A dash of cricketing flavour has been added to the contest given that Kerala are co-owned by Sachin Tendulkar and ATK are co-owned by Sourav Ganguly. The two icons are expected to cheer their respective teams from the stands, along with what is expected to be, a sell-out crowd.

Ironically, Saturday’s finalists finished third and fourth in the league stage, and the teams who were knocked out in the semi-finals were top finishers Chennaiyin FC and FC Goa.

Despite being finalists, both Blasters and ATK have had contrasting league rounds and semi-final matches. The Blasters struggled in the initial few games and from being the bottom placed, they bounced back and started peaking at the end of the tournament.

They outclassed the league toppers Chennaiyin FC in the first semi-final match and got the much-needed goal in the extra time of the second one to drub the leaders 4-3 on aggregate and book a spot in the final.

On the other hand, ATK endured a drop in form after some initial blitz. They were the league leaders in first few weeks but lost the plot and managed to scrape through to the semi-finals and the final.

The Eastern outfit seems to have lost it’s initial rhythm and even against FC Goa, they drew a blank, managing to qualify for the finals on the basis of penalties which they won 4-2.

With the Kolkata outfit finding it difficult to score goals in the second half of the league, they have relied on their solid defence to see them through to the finals.

Expect another close match: David James

Mumbai: Kerala Blasters’ player-cum-mentor David James promised exciting display against Atletico de Kolkata in the grand finale. The teams were locked in a 1-1 draw in Kolkata while ATK were denied a clear goal from their skipper Luis Garcia during their 1-2 away loss against Blasters in Kochi. “I suppose they would argue that they drew the second game as well. I have seen the replay. Having won that game in Kochi it was close to say the least. Even the game at Kolkata was close, there was an opportunity that hit the bar late on. I think it will be a very good tie, it will be exciting,” the former England goalkeeper said.

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