Atletico de Kolkata came back from trailing 1-0 in the first half of their Indian Super League (ISL) final - and then 2-0 in the penalty shootout - against Kerala Blasters, before pulling through to win 4-3 in the shootout to claim their second ISL title in three years at a jam-packed Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, Kochi on Sunday.
The two teams, who had previously met in the 2014 final where ATK had beaten Kerala 1-0, were tied 1-1 at the end of 120 minutes of open play, after Henrique Sereno's 44th-minute goal cancelled out Mohammed Rafi's 37th-minute effort.
Ouzin Ndoye and Cedric Hengbart both missed penalties for Kerala after Antonio German and Kervens Belfort had converted, as ATK held on to win despite Iain Hume missing from the spot while taking the first kick against his old team in the shootout.
The winning penalty was converted by Jewel Raja, after Sameehg Doutie, Borja Fernandez and Javi Lara had earlier converted for Kolkata. Mohammed Rafique, who had scored the winner for ATK in the 2014 final, was the other scorer for Kerala in the shootout.
Earlier, Kerala head coach Steve Coppell was compelled into making three changes to his starting lineup, with regular left-back Josu Currias out suspended. Coppell fielded Ishfaq Ahmed in Josu's place, and also started with Belfort in place of Didier Kadio, and had to start with Graham Stack in goal in place of semi-final shootout hero Sandip Nandy to maintain the Indian-foreigner balance in his lineup.
ATK, who were missing Robert Lalthamuana, Juan Belencoso and Abhinas Ruidas through suspensions, started in a 4-4-1-1 with Helder Postiga and Hume playing interchangeably up front, with Borja and Jewel shoring up the midfield even as Lalrindika Ralte and Doutie played along the wings.
Kerala began with great energy, but the first scoring chances fell for Postiga, who was played in from the centre and the wings on three occasions between the 14th and the 23rd minute, but failed to connect with the ball cleanly on each occasion.
Kerala were seemingly set back in the 36th minute, when captain Aaron Hughes had to substituted through injury by Ndoye, but it was Kerala who scored a minute later, when a corner from Mehtab Hossein met with Rafi, as he jumped higher than the ATK defence to fire his team into the lead.
In the 43rd minute, it was ATK left-back Keegan Pereira who had to be taken off through an injury, and was replaced by Prabir Das. Again his team would score a goal off a corner inside a minute, as Sereno shrugged off the Sandesh Jhingan to head Doutie's corner into the bottom right of Stack's goal.
As the evening progressed, the effects of the Kochi heat and humidity were visible on both teams, though Coppell tried his best to infuse some pace into proceedings with German and Rafique coming on, but Sereno had a terrific game in defence for ATK, despite being forced off the field on a couple of occasions after a gash opened up in his head when going up for an aerial duel in defence.
Both teams were content to allow the other to have possession in the middle of the field, and await the best opportunity for a counter-attack, and it was indicative of ATK head coach Jose Molina's thought process when he replaced Postiga with Javi Lara in the second half.
Sereno woas replaced in the fifth minute of added time due to injury, and Ofentse Nato came on as a like-for-like change, as ATK attempted to exploit the spaces left vacant by Ishfaq, who was beginning to cramp up in the latter stages of the match.
Their own players were tiring out though, and it was a combination of inability to get across to the balls provided, as well as a heroic effort in defence from Hengbart that would see this become the first final to go to penalties.
In the shootout, it was Stack who drew first blood for Kerala, but then saw it cancelled out by a poor attempt from Ndoye, who blasted the ball over in attempting to hit the top of the net.
Hengbart, who tried to chip the ball straight down the centre against Majumder, didn't put enough power in his kick, and the ATK goalkeeper saved it with his trailing leg.
Jewel stepped up and sank the ball into the corner of the net, taking the ISL trophy back to Kolkata for the second time.