ATK beat Kerala Blasters 1-0 to pick up their first win of the season
Atlético de Kolkata picked up their first win of the 2016 Hero Indian Super League by beating Kerala Blasters FC 1-0 in front of 54,900 fans at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Kochi. The game’s only goal came in the 53rd minute after a Javi Lara shot from range deflected off Sandesh Jhingan and found its way into the back of the net.
Kolkata nearly took the lead in the fourth minute of the game after Iain Hume found space on the right flank and cut the ball back for an onrushing Helder Postiga. ATK’s marquee player directed the cut-back goal-wards but Pratik Chaudhary made a brilliant sliding tackle to deny him a clean shot on goal.
It turned out to be Postiga’s last contribution of the match as the former Portuguese international was replaced shortly after by Spanish forward Juan Belencoso due to an injury. The visitors continued to attack, however, in spite of Postiga’s withdrawal as Sameehg Doutie and Lara started to wreak havoc on Kerala’s defence from the wide areas.
ATK then forced Kerala’s goalkeeper Graham Stack into a double save in the 26th minute with Doutie and Lara keeping the Englishman busy. The Blasters responded on the counter after Duckens Nazon got to the by-line and squared the ball for Antonio German, who failed to keep his shot on target.
German was at it again in the 31st minute when he unleashed a stinging shot from range that was fractions away from Kolkata’s goal. Mohammed Rafique was next to try his luck for the hosts two minutes later when he cut in from the left wing and put his effort just wide of goal.
The last chance of the half went the home side’s way as a delightful cross from the left by Mehtab Hossain was just out of reach for the Kerala Blasters attackers in the box, allowing ATK to clear the danger.
The first big chance of the second half fell to Belencoso after a beautiful cross from the right by Doutie found the Spaniard in the box. His header towards goal was a tame one though and trickled past Stack’s goal, much to the relief of the Blasters.
The goal, however, wasn’t too far away for Kolkata as they finally made the pressure count in the 53rd minute when a shot from range by Lara took a wicked deflection off Jhingan and left Stack wrong-footed in goal to make it 1-0 in favour of the visitors.
Kerala pushed on in search of an equaliser backed by their buoyant home support. However, some resolute defending by ATK limited the Blasters to mostly efforts from distance as Steve Coppell rang in the changes in search of a leveller.
The last ten minutes of the match saw the hosts throw everything forward in a desperate attempt to salvage something from the game. Cedric Hengbart came closest to equalising for the men in yellow while trying to head a corner at goal. The Kerala skipper’s effort though went just wide of goal to the disappointment of the home faithful as Coppell and his side suffered their second successive 1-0 defeat in five days.
Club award – Atlético de Kolkata
DHL Winning Pass of the Match - Juan Belencoso
Maruti Suzuki Swift Moment of the Match – Sameehg Doutie
ISL Emerging Player of the Match – Pratik Chaudhari
Hero of the Match – Javi Lara