Kerala squander lead twice as ATK snatch a point

Defending champions ATK came back from behind twice to earn a 2 – 2 draw against Kerala Blasters FC in the Hero Indian Super League (ISL) 2017-18 at the Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan in Kolkata on Thursday. It was a night of firsts when it came to goal-scoring, as all the scorers bagged their first ever Hero ISL goals. Gudjon Baldvinsson’s header was cancelled out by Ryan Taylor’s strike in the first half, while Dimitar Berbatov’s goal in the second period was levelled by Tom Thorpe’s header.

Kerala were the ones who started with the majority of the attacks, but it was the hosts who carved the first opportunity in the 10th minute. Taylor floated in a corner, but Martin Paterson’s free header only ruffled the side-netting. A couple of minutes later, Keegan Pereira tried his luck from about 35-yards out, and while he connected well, the ball drifted wide of the target.

Three minutes after the half-hour mark, Kerala took the lead. Prasanth K whipped in a cross from the left which found Gudjonsson, and the Icelander’s header took a deflection off Jordi Montel’s shoulder to nestle in the net.

However, it took only five minutes for the defending champions to respond. Taylor intercepted a pass and let fly from a long way out. The ball took a deflection off Lalruatthara before finding its way into the back of the net, as custodian Subhasish Roy stood rooted to his spot.

Three minutes before half-time, Kerala came close courtesy another deflection. Courage Pekuson turned his marker and had a crack with his left foot. The ball took a deflection off Tom Thorpe before flashing just wide of the post. That proved to be the last bit of action from the half as the teams went into the break locked at 1 – 1.

Three minutes following the restart, Jackichand Singh put in a cross from the right, but Baldvinsson’s free header was straight at ATK keeper Soram Poirei, who gratefully held on. The visitors regained their lead in the 55th minute. Following a scramble from a free-kick, the ball fell kindly for Berbatov and he struck a sweet volley from the edge of the box that hit the back of the net.

The hosts levelled for the second time in the match with a quarter of an hour left to play. Taylor lifted in a cross from the right flank, and Thorpe rose high to guide the ball into the goal with his glancing header, giving Roy no chance.

Six minutes from time, ATK survived a scare. Milan Singh hit a powerful shot from just outside the box, but the ball bounced off the chest of Poirei who just about managed to recover and collect, right in front of a couple of lurking Kerala players.

Then right on 90 minutes, Thorpe saved the day for ATK when he came up with a heroic goal-line clearance following Baldvinsson’s header. That proved to be the last chance of reckoning as the teams shared the spoils following the 2 – 2 draw.

MATCH AWARDS

Club Award: ATK and Kerala Blasters FC

Swift Moment of the Match: Dimitar Berbatov

DHL Winning Pass of the Match: Prasanth K

Amul Fittest Player: Gudjon Baldvinsson

Emerging Player: Bipin Singh

Hero of the Match: Ryan Taylor

Watch the match highlights here:

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