Kerala Blasters edge Atlético de Kolkata in thriller
Kerala Blasters FC managed to pull off a hard fought 2-1 win against Atlético de Kolkata at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Kochi on Friday night. The hosts went two up in the first half through Iain Hume and Pedro Gusmão, while Kolkata’s top scorer Fikru Teferra pulled one back for the visitors in the second session. The match could have ended in a draw, as TV replays showed Luis García’s stoppage time shot had crossed the line after coming off the underside of the crossbar, but was not given by the officials.
The Blasters got off to a blistering start when Hume had good presence of mind to be in the right position to connect with Gusmão’s lovely cross from the left flank in the fourth minute after Subhasish Roy Chowdhury had weakly palmed the ball away. This was just moments after Fikru Teferra obliged the hosts with a tame shot straight into the hands of David James after beating the offside trap. Fikru gave Cédric Hengbart and Gurwinder Singh a torrid time throughout the match, constantly finding gaps in the Kerala defence with his positioning and movement.
As the half wore on, Chowdhury pulled off a double save to deny Stephen Pearson and Milagres Gonsalves, and at the Kerala end, Fikru’s acrobatic attempt went over the bar. Then a good run by Sandesh Jhingan on the right allowed him to cut in and float a delightful ball into the box which beat everyone and fell to Gusmão on the left. The young Brazilian did not miss from close range.
Atlético de Kolkata came out in the second half with loads of intent, with Antonio López Habas bringing on García to replace Arnal Llibert. Things certainly changed once the marquee player was on, with Kolkata showing more creativity in attack. Kolkata duly got their goal in the 55th minute, when Fikru pressurised Hengbart in the box and the Frenchman’s clearance ricocheted off the Ethiopian and into the net.
Kolkata kept pushing for a goal and thought they had got one in injury time, only to be denied by the linesman amid player celebrations. Fikru headed the ball wonderfully to García after getting on a cross from the right, and the Spaniard’s volley seemed to cross the line, but was ignored by the officials.
The hosts, who remain unbeaten at home, consolidated their hold on the third spot with 15 points after the win, just a point behind Kolkata. They travel to Goa for a match on November 26 while Kolkata will play Pune away on November 29.
Hero of the Match: Pedro Gusmão (Kerala Blasters FC) (Watch here)
Swift Moment of the Match: Iain Hume (Kerala Blasters FC) (Watch here)
Amul Fittest Player of the Match: Milagres Gonsalves (Kerala Blasters FC)
ISL Emerging Player of the Match: Gurwinder Singh (Kerala Blasters FC)