Ogbeche brace helps Kerala down ATK in Hero ISL 2019-20 opener

Kerala Blasters FC came from behind to beat ATK 2-1 in the opening match of the Hero Indian Super League (Hero ISL) 2019-20 played at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Kochi on Sunday. The visitors were the first to find the back of the net, scoring their 100th goal in the competition via a spectacular Carl McHugh effort. The Blasters, however, roared back with two first-half Bartholomew Ogbeche strikes to collect all three points on the night.

  • Carl McHugh scored on the 6th minute to put the visitors ahead.
  • Bartholomew Ogbeche scored from the penalty spot around the 30-minute mark to level the scoreline.
  • The striker blasted in his second of the night at the stroke of half-time to hand his side the lead.
  • Despite ATK's best efforts in the second-half, the Blasters held onto the lead and registered the three points.

Kerala Blasters head coach Eelco Schattorie opted to start with debutant Bilal Khan in goal, with Gianni Zuiverloon, Jairo Rodrigues, Jessel Carneiro and Mohamad Rakip making up the back four and Senegalese midfielder Mouhamadou Gning deployed as the defensive screen. Prasanth K, young Jeakson Singh, another Hero ISL debutant, Halicharan Narzary and Sergio Cidoncha made up the rest of midfield with captain Bartholomew Ogbeche taking his usual position up top. Sahal Abdul Samad started the match from the bench. Antonio Lopez Habas, meanwhile, named an attacking unit with Roy Krishna, David Williams, Michael Soosairaj and Javier Hernandez in the line-up.

It was the home team who started brightly and conducted some early raids in the opposition half. The away team found it tough to get going early on but shocked the home crowd on the sixth minute. A long floated free-kick from deep was headed back by Agustin Iniguez and his centre-back partner Carl McHugh made the most out of it, burying his volley past a helpless Bilal to open the scoring. It was also ATK's 100th Hero ISL goal.

ATK got a chance to double their lead five minutes later as Bilal found himself in no man's land after coming out of his box for a ball. Agustin tried to slot it home into an empty net but was blocked off by a sliding Zuiverloon.

By the end of the 20-minute mark, Kerala were dominating possession, but most of the dangerous moves were coming from ATK on the break. Roy Krishna came close to doubling the lead on the 22nd minute as he carried the ball forward from the midway line and found himself in position to take a shot. However, instead of shooting himself, the striker tried to play in Javier Hernandez for a tap in. But his teammate wasn't quite on the same wavelength.

ATK seemed relentless in their pursuit of the second goal and came close on multiple occasions as a David Williams goal was ruled offside and a penalty appeal by Soosairaj was waved off.

On the 29th minute, Kerala won a penalty after Pronay Halder's challenge of Jairo Rodrigues inside the ATK box. Captain Bartholomew Ogbeche stepped up and slotted in past Arindam Bhattacharja to bring Kerala level, much to the delight of the home fans.

Just before the half-time whistle, the Kerala skipper struck again. He picked up the ball just inside the edge of the 18-yard box and fired in an unstoppable shot in the top corner, making it 2-1. The first-half, therefore, ended with Kerala holding the advantage.

Shortly after the restart, the visitors found themselves on the end of a glorious opportunity with the Blasters only clearing their lines at the last moment. Chances were at a premium following that incident, with both sides taking a measured approach.

However, with the game heading towards the final quarter, Krishna was presented with a sensational opening, but the striker, rather uncharacteristically, failed to get his first touch correct, thereby allowing Jairo to get back and make the block.

Ogbeche then, had a few half-chances himself towards the 70-minute mark, but failed to kill off the game, giving the visitors a chance going into the final exchanges.

With time running out, the two-time champions threw everything they had, and almost equalised two minutes from the final whistle. Substitute Balwant Singh held off his marker from a set-piece and got a decent connection on his header. The effort, though, was inches away from the target and subsequently, proved to be the final effort the visitors had in the match. This was Kerala's second consecutive victory on the opening day against ATK, having recorded a 2-0 win in the first fixture of the Hero ISL 2018-19 season.

Hero of the Match – Bartholomew Ogbeche

The 35-year-old led Kerala from the front, as he scored twice and put in a fantastic shift to help the Blasters claim all three points. His effort levels on the top half of the pitch continuously kept ATK on the back foot through considerable periods of the game.


Club Award – Kerala Blasters FC

Maruti Suzuki Limitless Player of the Match – Jairo Rodrigues

ISL Emerging Player of the Match – Jeakson Singh

Hero of the Match – Bartholomew Ogbeche 

Watch the match highlights here:

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