After an exhilarating performance in their last match it was a perfect opportunity for Atletico de Kolkata to capitalize on the winning momentum by registering another win at home. New signing Mohammad Rafique was given a start straightaway by Antonio Lopez Habas. NorthEast United FC went for the kill as they fielded a 4-3-3 formation.
Atletico were on the move at the outset as Gavillan had opened up the opposition defence with his incisive passing. But the resultant corner kick from him was a shocker as it sailed out aimlessly.
The referee made his presence felt as he awarded a controversial penalty to the visitors at what seemed to be an exaggerated fall from Carlos Lopez. Simao Sabrosa made no mistake as he slotted home to give his side an early lead in the 9th minute.
The same man who won the visitors a free kick got the first booking in the 20th minute. Gavillan stepped up but the goalkeeper made a mess of the set piece and parried it away for a corner.
NorthEast seemed to have luck on their side as a sure pull by the last man on Sameehg Doutie was let off with an offside decision.
Rafique continued with his impressive form from his last outing for Atletico de Kolkata. His exquisite crosses almost made it 1-1 but instead Hume’s header landed on the roof of the net.
A neat cross from Denzil Franco found Rafique whose diving header was saved by a diving Rehenesh. Atletico had taken the initiative to make it level but nothing seemed to materialize.
The first half was mostly dominated by Atletico de Kolkata but the lack of a goal frustrated their efforts.
Two half time changes from the home side saw Jewel Raja give way to conventional center half Arnab Mandal. Nato was replaced by Venezuelan Valmiro Lopez Rocha, better known as Valdo. This move meant a more attacking formation in the midfield as Borja was the only screen in front of the back four.
An offensive display from the home side made it easy for the opposite number to find themselves in acres of space in front of ATK goal. Nico Velez found two clear chances but could not increase the lead for NEUFC.
A pass from Rafique almost made it open net for Canadian Hume but Andre Bikey’s sliding clearance prevented the equalizer. Relentless attacking from the Kolkata outfit evoked hopes of the equalizer but it was to be the visitors night today.
A reckless challenge from Bruno Arias earned him a yellow as he kicked out wrongfully. Immediate response from coach was to take him off as Diomansy Kamara was introduced.
Tackles were flowing in from the NorthEast players and Kamara’s booted lunge on Hume saw him go into the book. In the stoppage time Dadzie had an opportunity to wrap it up but Amrinder showed great presence of mind as he saved the one on one situation. Another clear movement had set Kamara free on goal but his effort glided past the post.
It was a spirited display from the Atletico de Kolkata outfit but the champions luck seemed to have run out even when opportunities were created. However, none of their attempts converted to a goal. Another home defeat means Atletico de Kolkata now slip to 6th in the table. The defending champions now have a steep road to climb to secure the play offs.
Picture courtesy: Indian Super League