Navi Mumbai, May 17 (IANS) ATK Mohun Bagan FC held West Ham United FC to a 1-1 draw in a closely contested clash of the Reliance Foundation presents Premier League Next Generation Cup at the Reliance Corporate Park (RCP), here on Wednesday.
The third-place occupants of the recently-concluded Reliance Foundation Development League (RFDL) were within touching distance of taking away three points from this game. However, a late goal by the Hammers’ substitute Favour Fawunmi ensured that the incumbent FA Youth Cup champions walked away with a point from this game.
The Mariners started off positively as they didn’t peg back and took the game to the opposition right from the beginning. They were organised enough to thwart attacks at the back and regularly made inroads into the West Ham defence by initiating some incisive passing patterns through the middle.
They immediately found a breakthrough in the 10th minute, as the backline recovered possession and moved it up the field quite seamlessly. ATK Mohun Bagan forward Suhail Ahmad Bhat quickly capitalised upon the goal-scoring opportunity by getting past the Hammers’ backline and rounding off a clinical finish by putting the ball into the bottom right corner of the net.
The team from Kolkata was pretty tenacious in their defensive efforts thereafter, as their midfield came together to break attacks at the centre of the park. The trio of Suhail, Kiyan Nassiri Giri and Ningombam Engson Singh interlinked brilliantly as they exploited the open spaces in the West Ham defence.
The Hammers came across a fine opportunity to equalise in the 50th minute but Lewis Orford’s spot-kick was cleverly denied by ATK Mohun Bagan shot-stopper Arshdeep, who dived low on his left to save the shot. However, the substitutions that West Ham rang in did the trick for them and ensured that they avoided starting off the tournament with a defeat.
“The message was that we are facing a team that is the champion of the FA Youth Cup in England, which is a country in the top five of the FIFA rankings currently. They did an amazing final, beating Arsenal in the Emirates by 5-1. We knew who we were facing so the message was to keep fighting until the end, as we always do,” said ATK Mohun Bagan coach Josep Maria Roma Gibert.
“There is always a chance, opportunity and momentum to score and we did quite well because we had three-four good chances, of which we scored one,” he added.
On the other hand, West Ham United coach Lauris Coggin spoke about his pep talk that helped his boys secure the late equaliser.
“The message was to have patience. We could have had more (of that). The opportunities that we created, what we planned for, what we expected, I think to be calmer around the box, to keep probing and looking for opportunities that we knew would come. Obviously, there were situations when we missed the penalty. There were opportunities in the penalty box where we should have been converting them,” said Coggin.
West Ham United next face Bengaluru FC on May 20 whereas ATK Mohun Bagan will be locking horns with Stellenbosch FC in their respective next games on the same day.