Atlético de Kolkata start title defence in style, beat Chennaiyin FC 3-2
Season 2 of the Hero Indian Super League [ISL] got off to a blockbuster start as defending champions Atlético de Kolkata edged past Chennaiyin FC in a high-octane and nervy inaugural match in front of a crowd of 29,923.
Two goals from Atlético de Kolkata’s marquee player Hélder Postiga and a header by super-sub Valdo proved to be enough to see off spirited Chennaiyin FC.
The southern outfit didn’t help themselves after defensive errors led to the first two goals for Kolkata before a pinpoint cross from last year’s Hero of the Tournament Iain Hume led to a thumping header by Valdo. Goals from Jeje and Elano would make it 2-1 and 3-2 for the home side.
The game got off to a riveting start with Chennai’s talismanic playmaker Elano showing his class to glide away from his marker and earn a corner for his team which Jeje would head wide. The attack set a good tempo for the match.
The first meaningful chance of the game came the home side’s way in the 10th minute when ex-Atlético de Kolkata man Fikru Teferra seamlessly spun away from his man to just fire wide of the post. This would be a recurring theme for the rest of the half.
However, it was the defending champions who took the lead against the run of play in the 13th minute after another former Atlético de Kolkata player, goalkeeper Apoula Edel made the cardinal error of fumbling the ball when trying to collect a Borja Fernandes free-kick only for ATK’s marquee signing Postiga to fire into an open net.
Chennai were on the front foot immediately after the restart as Fikru’s influence on the game would start to grow rapidly as the first-half wore on. It was his touch that would eventually lead to the goal after an outstanding through ball from Elano found him in acres of space to head into the outrushing keeper; the resultant loose ball would be easily tapped in by Lalpekhlua Jeje, last year’s highest Indian scorer, to draw the home side level.
Jeje could have made it 2-1 for the hosts easily before half-time when an Elano cross would find him unmarked in the box only for his header to go wide of the post. Chennai would continue to remain on the front foot as the first half came to a close with another powerful drive from Elano straight at the Atlético de Kolkata goalkeeper.
Chennai started the second half the way they ended the first. The Super Machans were in complete control of the opening 15 minutes of the second period before Sena Ralte brought down Postiga at the edge of the Chennai box only for Jaime Gavilan’s left-footed curler to brush the side of the Chennaiyin FC post.
The 63th-minute introduction of Stiven Mendoza for Fikru to the delight of the home crowd added the pace to Chennai’s attack. The Colombian international made an instant impact collecting the ball near the half-line to fire a powerful shot straight at the goalkeeper and earn a corner.
Seven minutes later Chennai would go on to shoot themselves on the foot after a hospital back pass by Bernard Mendy would go on to gift Postiga his second goal of the match on debut for his side. Kolkata’s marquee man, however, would pick up an injury in the process and not play any further part in the match after having to be stretchered off the pitch.
Valdo came on to replace Postiga and made an immediate impact after being on the pitch for just two minutes. The youngster headed home a floated cross from the left-hand side by Hume to make it 3-1 for the visitors.
The reigning champions could have put the game beyond all doubt in the 78th minute when Mendy handled the ball inside his own box to hand ATK a penalty only for Edel to redeem himself for his earlier error with a great save down low to his right from a Javi Lara penalty.
The home side struggled to get a foothold in the game until an 88th-minute penalty which was given against Arnab Mondal to offer Chennai a way back into the game. Elano stepped up and converted the penalty with a calm finish into the right corner.
Chennai threw all but the kitchen sink at the ATK goal straight after the restart. However, the defending champs would hold their nerve and successfully negotiate five minutes of extra time to start their Hero Indian Super League Season 2 campaign the way they ended the first, with a win.
Ozone Group Club Award – Atlético de Kolkata
Swift Moment of the Match – Elano (Chennaiyin FC) (Watch here)
Amul Fittest Player of the Match – Raphael Augusto (Chennaiyin FC)
Hewlett-Packard Transformer of the Match – Valdo (Atlético de Kolkata) (Watch here)
ISL Emerging Player of the Match – Lalpekhlua Jeje (Chennaiyin FC) (Watch here)
Hero of the Match – Hélder Postiga (Atlético de Kolkata) (Watch here)