An early strike from William Pualiankhum was enough for the ISL outfit to bag their first victory in the tournament.

In a closely contested match, it was Deggie Cardozo’s young ATK side who came up with a narrow 0-1 win over Mohammedan Sporting as both sides played their last group game of the 129th edition of the Durand Cup at the Salt Lake Stadium.

An early strike from William Pualiankhum was enough for the ISL outfit to bag their first victory in the Durand Cup as both sides bow out of the tournament. The Black Panthers were wasteful in front of goal and paid the price of not taking their chances.

5. Can Avilash Paul fight for his place in the ATK senior team?

The former Aizawl FC custodian has been hot and cold in this tournament till now. But he saved the best for the last game against Mohammedan Sporting. Paul kept on pulling out exceptional saves and kept frustrating Subrata Bhattacharya’s men.

The 24-year old was also good at marshalling his defenders and also showed maturity in his distribution as the conditions were tricky at the Salt Lake stadium due to incessant rain. If he maintains this performance and remains consistent then Antonio Lopez Habbas will have a tough time in selecting his main man between the sticks.

4. Did Mohammedan Sporting miss the presence of Kareem Omolaja in defence?

The Nigerian defender is a very seasoned campaigner in Indian football and has played for numerous team. Hence his experience and physical presence in the heart of the defence could have made life difficult for the young inexperienced forwardline of ATK.

Kareem acts as a leader in Subrata Bhattacharya’s side and holds the team together when they are down. The Black Panthers lacked one of their vital cogs in their final Durand Cup game, as they bowed out of the tournament with a narrow loss against the ATK side.

3. Did ATK miss a proper striker upfront?

Deggie Cardozo’s men have simply got better with games as the young players found their feet and got the coordination going in their buildup. The team has great pace in both flanks and also looks solid in defence. But the main thing which they lacked was a proper no.9 upfront. Asish Jha who started the first game was out of sorts and had a poor outing. Since then Cardozo has tried players like Hitesh Sharma and William Pauliankhum, but none of them are natural strikers which did not help their cause.

The Red and Whites needed one of their Indian strikers from the senior team to play in the Durand Cup and it would have added more panache to their attacking approach. Considering the passing football they have played with the quick transition they needed someone who can hold the play up and be a target in the penalty box.

2. Is Anil Chawan the find for ATK from the Durand Cup?

The former SESA captain has been sensational in this edition of Durand Cup. He partnered Salam Ranjan in the heart of the ATK defence and sometimes outperformed his senior partner. The youngster has a calm and composed demeanour with the ball and his no-nonsense attitude without it, makes him a top prospect for the Red and Whites.

Chawan was very matured with his approach and kept the dangerous Arthur Kouassi at bay throughout the game. He was also great with his positioning and came up with some exceptional blocks and interceptions to frustrate the opposition. If he continues improving this way he can be a player to watch out for in the near future.

1. Did Mohammedan Sporting lack cohesion in their midfield?

The Black Panthers were disappointing after coming to this game on the back of a big win against Indian Navy. However, Subrata Bhattacharya’s men were very one dimensional and also wasteful in the heart of the field. Players like Mudde Musa and Tirthankar Sarkar tried to weave some passes in their buildup but their lack in cohesion was evident in their midfield.

Too many miss passes and lack in proper coordination made life difficult for the Mohammedan Sporting midfielders to run the play against their counterparts. Both Sarkar and Musa looked jaded as the game entered the last quarter and the Black Panthers did not have any cutting edge to break through the sturdy ATK defence.