Kerala and ATK play out goalless draw in Hero ISL opener

Kerala Blasters FC and defending champions ATK shared the spoils in the first match of Hero Indian Super League (ISL) 2017-18 at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Kochi on Friday. ATK enjoyed more possession and had the better chances, but the Kerala defence with Sandesh Jhingan and Hero of the Match Nemanja Lakic Pesic held strong to thwart most of ATK’s advances.

The Blasters took the game to the defending champions at the beginning and Milan Singh let fly more than once when he found space. Courage Pekuson and CK Vineeth with their pace, initially proved to be a handful for the ATK defence. However, Kolkata grew into the game and started stringing passes together. The 13th minute saw the first big chance of the game as ATK’s Hitesh Sharma found himself in a good position to take a shot. The experienced Paul Rachubka though pulled off a save to make sure the scoreline was not troubled.

Njazi Kuqi also saw his scuffed shot gathered by the custodian six minutes later as ATK kept more of the ball. However, they could not find a finish to any of their attacks and while Kerala were content to play on the counter, they could not find any openings either as the teams went in goalless at the break.

The hosts started the second period on the front foot and Vineeth forced ATK custodian Debjit Majumder into his first save of the night. The rebound though was followed by a shot that Pekuson could have perhaps done better with. As the half progressed, the football was a bit stop-start as the players tried to pick up bits and pieces from misplaced passes and clearances. The best chance went Zequinha’s way in the 69th minute when he unleashed a stinging effort from the edge of the penalty box. The shot hit the bar with Rachubka beaten and Lakic Pesic just about managed to clear the ball before substitute Robin Singh could get a boot to it.

ATK kept pressing but without much joy as Kerala’s defence held their ground. Dimitar Berbatov managed to get a header on target in injury time but Debjit was hardly troubled and held on to the ball as the teams settled for a draw and a point to open their accounts.

Match Awards

Moment of the Match Award: Paul Rachubka
Winning Pass of the Match: Courage Pekuson
Emerging Player: Hitesh Sharma
Hero of the Match Award: Nemanja Lakic Pesic

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