What does a champion team comprise of? Goal scorers upfront, steely midfield and a bunch of wily defenders; tonight the Indian Super League title holders displayed the exact attributes of a successful team. With Nadong Bhutia, Iain Hume, javi Lara and Izumi Arata, there wasn’t any dearth of goal scoring options. At the back, the likes of Nallappan Mohanraj, Jose Miguel, Augustine Fernandez and Denzil Franco ensured clever defending.
As a result, the home team won the match and moved to the top of the table after the third round.
Score early and defend with grit.
That has been the motto of Atletico coach Antonio Habas and the team followed that to the T tonight. Javi Lara rattled the crossbar early with a thunderous strike in the 5th minute. Soon after, Hume had his effort thwarted by the Kerala Blasters custodian, which fell in the path of Izumi Arata. He slotted past with a first time finish to notch up his second goal of the tournament.
After the early lead, the first half was mostly played in the ATK half with Kerala trying to trouble the Kolkata defence. It was a futile attempt as the midfield of Habas’ side complimented the backline excellently to keep Kerala Blasters at bay.
The right flank of Atletico de Kolkata functioned brilliantly.
As usual with injuries and suspensions, ATK coach had his task cut out in this match. The unavailability of Baljit Sahni saw Nadong Bhutia get his first start. He played brilliantly and put the crowd in rapt attention with his flicks and rabona passes.
Bhutia worked tirelessly and partnered Hume splendidly in all their attacking moves. It was a starkly different tale as Atletico seemed at ease till the last few minutes. The new faces seemed to gel in effortlessly to bring out the best in the team.
The home side conceded a solitary goal at the dying moments.
The influential Javi Lara deservedly clinched the hero of the match award after scoring a dazzling solo goal. Within 5 minutes of the second half Atletico de Kolkata went 2-0 up. The team was brimming with confidence and that was evident from the neat defending. The fresh faces in the back put up an excellent show with their effective positioning and clearances.
But in the last 10 minutes, ATK resorted to some deep defending. However, Chris Dagnall managed to poke one goal for the visitors. That shifted the momentum to the away side. Catalyud was called on to make some fantastic saves. Sanchez Watt found his tempo and blasted few shots at the ATK goal, only to be denied by the Spanish custodian.
It was a rematch of last year’s final and the outcome was same. In front of Brazilian stalwart Pele, Atletico de Kolkata emerged victorious.