ATK and Chennaiyin kick-start their season in a pulsating 2-2 draw
Atlético de Kolkata played out a thrilling 2-2 draw against Chennaiyin FC in front of a 10,973 strong crowd at Rabindra Sarobar Stadium on Sunday evening. Sameehg Doutie gave the hosts the lead near the hour mark before two goals in quick succession by Jayesh Rane and Hans Mulder put the defending champions 2-1 up. An Iain Hume penalty four minutes from time though ensured that the points were shared between the two sides.
The game got off to a pacey start with both sides trying to assert their dominance over the other. Chennaiyin FC came close to drawing first blood in the eighth minute when a deflected John Arne Riise free-kick from the edge of ATK’s penalty box rattled the crossbar.
Kolkata responded with some neat passing and good build up play without ever threatening Duwayne Kerr in Chennai’s goal. Their marquee player Helder Postiga nearly changed all that in the 20th minute when he directed Doutie’s cross from the right goal-wards. Bernard Mendy though was having none of that as he closed down Postiga quickly and denied him a clear shot on goal with a crucial block.
The Super Machans went back up the other end and forced Kolkata’s keeper Debjit Majumder into a save courtesy of a Jeje Lalpekhlua shot from distance two minutes later. Javi Lara started to influence the game for ATK much more past the half hour mark but was kept quiet by Mehrajuddin Wadoo and a well organised Chennai defence that kept denying the home side any clear cut chances on goal.
Chennai could have taken the lead just before half-time through a lightning quick counter-attack after a Kolkata free-kick broke favourably for the visitors. Jeje carried the ball forward with speed before passing left to Rane who failed to find the all-important final ball, making 0-0 at the break.
The second half began with some confusion at the back for Chennaiyin, which the hosts almost capitalised on. A last ditch tackle by Riise, however, saved the visitor’s blushes and ensured they weren’t trailing within a minute of the restart.
Kolkata eventually made the breakthrough in the 59th minute after a delightful ball over Chennaiyin’s defence found Doutie in acres of space on the right. The South-African winger controlled the ball expertly before composing himself and slotting it past Kerr in goal to give his side a 1-0 lead.
The reigning champions weren’t behind for long, however, as they pushed forward in search of an equaliser. They scored the leveller in the 66th minute when an attempted shot by Jeje found its way to Rane, who did the needful to make it 1-1.
Things went from bad to worse for the hosts four minutes later when Hans Mulder unleashed a powerful shot from range that took a wicked deflection and crept past Majumder in goal to make it 2-1 for the Super Machans.
Hume could have equalised for ATK in the 74th minute after a cross from the left found its way to the Canadian striker in the far post. Kolkata’s top-scorer from last year failed to hit the target, however, as their search for an equaliser continued with 15 minutes to spare.
Substitute Dudu should have put the game beyond all dispute seven minutes from time when he blazed over a Rane cross from near the six-yard box. They were made to pay for the miss three minutes later after substitute Jerry Lalrinzuala was punished for a foul on Doutie inside the penalty box. Hume stepped up to the spot and shot low to Kerr’s right to make it 2-2 as both sides shared the spoils after a thoroughly entertaining encounter that ended all square.
Club Award: Atlético de Kolkata/Chennaiyin FC
Amul Fittest Player of the Match - Sameehg Doutie
DHL Winning Pass of the Match - Jeje Lalpekhlua
Maruti Suzuki Swift Moment of the Match - Helder Postiga
ISL Emerging Player of the Match - Jayesh Rane
Hero of the Match - Mehrajuddin Wadoo