Atlético de Kolkata and Kerala Blasters FC play out hard-fought draw
Kerala Blasters FC got their first point of the Hero Indian Super League after coming from behind to earn a hard-fought draw against league leaders Atlético de Kolkata. In a pulsating encounter at Kolkata’s Salt Lake Stadium, both sides would feel they could have taken all three points, with good chances at either end in the second half.The game got off to a lively start, as Kolkata took advantage of their raucous home support and put Kerala on the back foot. Their breakthrough came in the 22nd minute, when Jofre ran down the left wing and put a delightful low ball into the box. Borja Fernández scuffed the chance but managed to keep control and set up Baljit Sahni for a superb finish through two Kerala defenders and past David James to give his side the lead.
Kerala grew stronger after going behind, and their attacking approach finally paid off. Canadian striker Iain Hume, who was the Blasters’ standout performer throughout the match, displayed some excellent skill to control a difficult high ball, and then played a clever one-two with strike partner Milagres Gonsalves. The Goan’s exquisite flick beat the Kolkata defence, and Hume put in a composed finish past keeper Subhasish Roy Chowdhury.
Going level into the halftime interval was a huge boost for Kerala, setting them up to push on in the second half. They started strongly, keeping hold of the ball and patiently looking for a way through the Kolkata defence. Kolkata were comfortable playing on the break, however, with their pace and physicality causing problems whenever they went forward. At times, their aggressive style caused frustrations to spill over, with a few hard tackles flying in as scorers Hume, Sahni, and Kolkata substitute Rakesh Masih were all yellow-carded in quick succession.
As the game reached its closing stages, the home side began to apply more pressure on the Kerala defence in the hope of nicking a late goal. They nearly found their winner, when Jofre again put in an excellent low ball across the face of goal, but Sahni could only hit the crossbar with his finish. Despite their efforts, however, the game ended level, giving Kerala a long-awaited point to get off the mark in the ISL.
Kolkata remain unbeaten, however, and will want to continue their fine form in their next outing against Chennaiyin FC on November 4. Kerala will be buoyed by a hard-earned point in an away fixture, and will now be looking to build some momentum. Their next game, a fourth successive away match, is against FC Pune City on October 30.