Since arriving three seasons ago as the other half of the frontline firm of him and Roy Krishna, David Williams has played his bit-part role to perfection. Due to a ceiling on foreigners in the Indian Super League (ISL), Krishna would be preferred leaving Williams to make the most of limited opportunities that came his way. Which he did.
He has the fastest goal in ISL 2021-22, the long-ranger against Hyderabad FC coming 12 seconds after kick-off. In the second leg of the 2019-20 semi-final, Williams’ second-half brace helped ATK overcome a 0-1 deficit to win 3-2 on aggregate against Bengaluru FC. In the 2020-21 final against Mumbai City FC, Williams had put ATK Mohun Bagan ahead early. Last term, in the 1-5 drubbing by Mumbai City FC, Williams had scored and again in the return leg which ended 1-1. Before that, there was a goal in the draw against Basundhara Kings in the 2021 AFC Cup.
On Tuesday, with Krishna not available, Williams started like he did against Blue Star. At stake was a group league berth in the 2022 AFC Cup, and like he did a week ago, Williams scored. Against Blue Star, his goal was the last in a 5-0 rout. Against Abahani Dhaka, he put ATK Mohun Bagan ahead in the sixth with a stab after getting to the end of a Joni Kauko assist, the Finn being freed by Liston Colaco. Williams scored in the 30th minute with another stab, this time from a Prabir Das delivery from the right. The hattrick could have been completed in the 35th after Hugo Boumous who had started moves that produced both goals, found Williams breaking the Abahani Dhaka high defensive line. But with only goalkeeper Sahudul Alam to beat, Williams couldn’t get past the last man.
In between the goals and misses, Kauko connected a volley into the night sky and twice Williams was left pleading Colaco for deliveries that didn’t come. Still, the playoff game looked in ATK Mohun Bagan’s control; the Jewel Rana flick-on that Nedo Turkovic couldn’t connect being an aberration amid one-way traffic.
But with Abahani Dhaka giving it their all, a large part of the second half was anything but easy for the hosts. Amrinder Singh survived nervy moments when Turkovic failed to get anything on a delivery from the right. When Daniel Colindres made it 1-2 with a long-ranger in the 61th minute after Tiri, who was excellent otherwise, lost a ball in the midfield, 31,925 hearts skipped a beat even though many among them sporadically kept up the chant of ‘break the merger’, referring to the union of ATK and Mohun Bagan. When Rana drove wide from close after Kauko missed an aerial ball and Subasish Bose was ball watching, ATK Mohun Bagan were feeling the heat, literally and otherwise. Colaco’s long-ranger that Alam got a finger to keep out was against the run of play.
Still, ATK Mohun Bagan could have put the game to bed but Colaco’s pass to Kauko was too acute. Kiyan Nassiri, a 79th minute substitute for Colaco, almost did inside one minute of coming on. Speeding down the left, he showed immaculate control by taking a step back to evade the challenge but with an open goal dragged his shot wide. Playing off the shoulder of a defender in a high line, Williams finally sealed the deal and completed his hattrick when Boumous found him in space. In the end, ATK Mohun Bagan were too good. A second successive AFC Cup group stage awaits.