2022 AFC Cup, Interzone Semifinals
  • Fardin Ali Molla (90')
  • Paulo Josué (60')
  • Fakrul Aiman (90'+2')
  • Romel Morales (90'+5')

AFC Cup: Kuala Lumpur City defeat ATK Mohun Bagan 3-1 in thrilling Inter-Zone semifinal

Paulo Josue celebrates with his Kuala Lumpur City teammates after scoring the opening goal against ATK Mohun Bagan in the Inter-Zone semifinal of the 2022 AFC Cup. Asian Football Confederation

Kuala Lumpur City defeated ATK Mohun Bagan 3-1 in the Inter-Zone semifinal of the 2022 AFC Cup, thanks late injury time strikes from Fakrul Aiman and Romel Morales. Paulo Josue had given the visitors a second half lead, with Fardin Ali Molla equalising in the 91st minute, after which KL City produced their last-gasp heroics. They now face Uzbekistan's Sogdiana Jizzakh in the Inter-Zone final, who defeated Eastern SC of Hong Kong 1-0 in the other zonal semifinal on Tuesday.

ATK Mohun Bagan dominated the opening exchanges, with KL City willing to sit back and absorb pressure. Barring a couple of driving runs from Liston Colaco and testing deliveries into the box from Ashique Kuruniyan and Joni Kauko, ATKMB were unable to fashion clear-cut chances, despite all of their possession.

The Malaysian visitors were content to hit their opponents on the counter-attack, but the final ball aiming to release Jordan Mintah up-front evaded them. The first shot in anger came in the 17th minute, with Colaco dribbling past Kamal Azizi and firing a deflected drive right at Azri Ghani in goal. It seemed to spark KL City into life, as Josue sent Mintah through with a chipped ball, only for Subashish Bose to intervene with a hacked clearance.

Mintah went close moments later again, as Azizi's cross from the right was flicked on by Josue into the Ghanaian forward's path, but he blazed over. The home crowd did find their voice in the 28th minute, after some excellent build-up from Kauko, Kuruniyan and Pritam Kotal saw the ball fall to Colaco in the box, but an ambitious overhead kick sailed well over the bar.

The hosts continued to dominate possession, with Kauko and Kuruniyan pulling the strings creatively, only to run into a brick wall in form of Irfan Zakaria and Giancarlo Gallifuoco at the heart of the KL City defence, as the visitors saw out a goalless first half.

ATKMB had 81% percent of the ball going into the break, and it continued after, with the hosts retaining the ball with ease. Yet, for all of their possession, ATKMB were made to pay on the hour mark, as Josue scored a blinder out of nowhere. Florentin Pogba's defensive header from ATKMB's throw-in fell to Akram Mahinan in midfield, who touched it on to Josue and the Brazilian unleashed a wicked, swerving shot from range, leaving Vishal Kaith no chance in the host's goal.

Juan Ferrando and Bojan Hodak both made changes as the second half wore on, with the latter seeking to preserve his winning record against Indian clubs (Bengaluru FC and East Bengal in 2015, with Johor Darul Ta'zim). KL City held firm, despite the crowd in the Salt Lake stadium increasing decibel levels. Azizi in particular, pulled off a critical sliding tackle in the box to deny Kuruniyan from charging through as the hosts amped up the pressure with ten minutes to go.

It was all hands on deck for the visitors as they defended, but Fardin Ali Molla lashed home an equaliser for ATKMB in the 91st minute after Ghani's save from a Colaco shot rebounded out to him. With the game all set for extra-time, KL City landed their sucker punch - Aiman glancing a header past Kaith from a Josue set-piece in the 92nd minute, after which Morales pounced on an error at the back as the hosts chased the game, rifling the ball into the bottom corner and thus sealing an incredible 3-1 win for the Malaysians.