KAUSAV BARUAH / AIPS* in MUMBAI: A splendid stoppage-time header by substitute Mohammad Rafique secured for Atletico De Kolkata the inaugural Indian Super League title against Kerala Blasters here on Saturday at the DY Patil Stadium.
With the Sachin Tendulkar co-owned Kerala Blasters FC taking on Saurav Ganguly co-owned Atletico de Kolkata in front of a full packed crowd, Rafique’s header in the additional minutes left English keeper David James with no chance.
Rafique, who replaced Mohammad Rafi in the 74th minute, followed up a corner from Czech defender Jakub Podany to head home in the 94th minute, a minute before the second-half stoippage-time was scheduled to end.
Rafique, later adjudged hero of the match, leaped above defender Nirmal Chetri to decide a lively game apparently heading for extra time.
Atletico, who had never beaten Kerala previously, provided their fans with a perfect occasion to celebrate after the two sides had finished 1-1 in the first leg.
The inaugural ISL champions had benched their injured skipper and marqee player Luis Garcia and were grateful to Armenian goalkeeper Edel Bete for a number of splendid saves.
Spanish forward Arnal Llibert and Rafi played upfront from the start, while the defence was manned by makeshift stopper Podany, back-from-injury Kingshuk Debnath, Arnab Mondal and Spaniard Josemi.
The Blasters were without star defender Frenchman Cedric Hengbert, and played English striker Michael Chopra and Canadian Iain Hume as forwards. James returned in goal after sitting out the second semi-final.
** AIPS is the international sports journalists’ association with 10,000 members worldwide. More information: www.AIPSmedia.com
# # # # # # # # # # # # # # #