Late goals see Kerala and ATK share the spoils in Kochi

Kerala Blasters FC and ATK played out a thrilling 1-1 draw in the first Hero Indian Super League (Hero ISL) encounter of 2019 at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Kochi on Friday.

  • Edu Garcia gave ATK the lead with a low-driven free-kick in the 85th
  • Matej Poplatnik’s deflected effort found the back of the net in the 88th
  • Kerala now extend their winless run to 12 matches.

Both sides started the match on a cautious note, opting to sit in midfield rather than commit men forward. Neither side could muster up any clear-cut chances in a cagey opening half. New signing Garcia was ATK’s most threatening attacker of the half. His pace and trickery troubled Kerala’s defence early on, nearly giving the away side the lead. After ghosting inside the box, he nearly let loose, but Sandesh Jhingan was at hand to see out the danger.

From Kerala’s end Seiminlen Doungel caused a few problems for the ATK defence with his clever runs inside the box. However, Kerala’s best chance fell to Matej Poplatnik in the 35th minute. The Slovenian’s header seemed to be creeping just outside the far post, but goalkeeper Arindam Bhattacharja was not taking any chances as he saved it comfortably.

The best moment of the half came towards the fag end when youngster Dheeraj Singh proved his worth with a brilliant save. Edu Garcia picked up the ball just outside the box, swivelled past Jhingan before executing a neat curling effort. Dheeraj was as alert as ever, as his outstretched hand prevented the ball from entering the top corner.

Kerala started imposing themselves in the second period and had a golden opportunity to take the lead a few minutes in when Slavisa Stojanovic had time and space in the penalty box to pick his spot. However, the Serbian rushed at the chance and ended up blazing over.

Kerala refused to sit back and continued piling the pressure on their opponents. A few minutes later, Poplatnik forced a smart save from Arindam with a stinging drive.

The onslaught from Kerala continued and they really should have taken the lead ahead of the last quarter. Sahal Abdul Samad did brilliantly well from the right-hand side of the penalty box before delivering an inch perfect ball to Doungel. With just the ’keeper to beat, the winger fluffed his lines as he could only find the side-netting.

Just as it seemed the tie would end goal-less, Garcia produced a moment of individual brilliance completely against the run of play. The Spaniard was awarded a free-kick in the 84th minute after being fouled just outside the box. His clever drive skimmed under the wall before creeping into the bottom corner.

However, Kerala would not take defeat and equalised almost immediately through Poplatnik. The Slovenian got on the end of a pin-point cross from Cyril Kali. His resulting header took a heavy deflection off Gerson Vieira before landing in the top corner. With time not favouring either side, the match ended in a 1-1 draw, much to the annoyance of both sets of supporters.

Hero of the Match – Edu Garcia

The Spaniard had a debut to remember as he caused the Kerala defence nightmares with his creativity and drive. His perfectly executed goal exemplified his quality. ATK will be counting on him to bring home the goods as ATK vie for a spot in the play-offs.

Match awards

Club awards – ATK and Kerala Blasters

Swift Limitless player of the match – John Johnson

DHL Winning pass of the match – Cyril Kali

ISL Emerging player of the match – Sahal Abdul Samad

Hero of the Match – Edu Garcia

What’s next?

ATK will next host Jamshedpur on February 3 while Kerala Blasters FC travel to the home of Delhi Dynamos on January 31.

Watch the match highlights here

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