Atletico de Kolkata (ATK) sealed their place in the semi-finals after a 1-1 draw with Kerala Blasters in an Indian Super League (ISL) football match here at the Rabindra Sarovar stadium on Tuesday.
Third-placed ATK, who have now moved to 19 points from 13 matches, have a better better head-to-head record against Kerala. They are the only side in the ISL to qualify for the semis in all three editions of the tournament.
Table-toppers Mumbai City FC, 22 points from 13 matches, and second positioned Delhi Dynamos (20 from 12) have also qualified along with ATK.
Kerala also have 19 points but have an inferior goal difference and are fourth in the standings.
Top four teams qualify for the semi-finals. FC Pune City (18 points from 15 matches) were knocked out of the tournament after ATK’s 1-1 draw against Kerala.
Fifth-placed NorthEast who are also in the fray with 15 points from 12 outings.
Kerala will host NorthEast in their last group stage match, the outcome of which could potentially decide which team claims the last qualifying spot.
For Kerala, C.K. Vineeth netted in the eighth minute to pull them ahead. But Stephen Pearson restored parity in the 18th minute, scoring in the second consecutive game.
Vineeth scored his fourth goal in five games by nodding in from close range after ATK goalkeeper Debjit Muzumdar came out of his line needlessly and spilled the ball for him to put the ball into an empty net.
In the 17th minute, ATK’s marquee footballer Postiga took a swipe from distance but failed to score. The hosts though equalised soon after, Pearson putting the finishing touches to a wonderful one-touch move with Postiga feeding the midfielder to side-foot the ball in.
At halfime, both teams were level at 1-1.
ATK coach Jose Molina brought in Keegan Pereira in place of Robert Lalthlamuana at the start of the second half. Fortunes though did not turn for the inaugural champions as the second period failed to produce any moment of note at both ends.
With time running out and the game meandering on, Molina threw in Juan Belencoso to alter the fate in place of striker Iain Hume in the 80th minute. A partially fit Sameehg Doutie was also drafted in in the dying minutes but the game ended 1-1 at full time.