The second edition of the Hero Indian Super League is at its business end, leaving every match with added importance. In sync with the high spirits, Salt Lake Stadium hosted an epic clash of the Indian football power houses, Atletico de Kolkata and FC Goa.
The defending champions were riding high on a remarkable resurgence that has made them a tough contender for the playoffs. On the other hand, Zico’s FC Goa were coming back from a goal scoring spree with the 7-0 decimation of Mumbai City FC. FC Pune City coach David Platt was there in the stands to measure the form of the defending champions whom they face next.
For Atletico de Kolkata, Bengal boys, Arnab Mondal and Mohammad Rafique were included in the playing eleven. To fortify the central midfield, coach Antonio Lopez Habas paired Nato along with Borja.
On the other hand, the visitors retained their new signing Dudu Omagbemi and T Haokip in the attacking sphere. The return of ex-Atletico man Joffre Mateu made their midfield a coherent unit along with the likes of Jonathan Lucca and Leo Moura.
It was the turn of the visitors to draw the first save as Dudu hit a low shot in the first minute itself but Amrinder Singh was up to the task. FC Goa upped the ante as Leo Moura had a diving effort miss the goal, leaving the Atletico de Kolkata defence standing still. It was another shambolic piece of defending from the home side as a back pass was caught by the Nigerian Dudu whose shot went past the goal.
The home team had their chances in the 12th minute when Iain Hume went past Gregory Arnolin but his sharp cross did not find the head of a roving Sameehg Doutie. In the immediate next move, the Canadian had a chance to score but his left-footed grounder didn’t find the net. Six minutes later Mohammad Rafique had a fantastic chance as Gavillan made a perfect pass to the winger. But the petite frame of Rafique could not withstand the challenge of Arnolin.
Soon after, however, it was the South African Doutie who made a beautiful finish after latching on to a lobbed through ball from Gavillan. His flamboyant celebrations made it another reason for exaltation as Atletico de Kolkata took the lead.
Two minutes later the crowd erupted as Borja Fernandez lashed a brilliant pile driver to increase the lead. It was the same Doutie who acted as the provider this time. The defending champions had turned the tables on the visitors with Borja’s goal.
The upward momentum caught the away side off guard as Atletico de Kolkata launched an onslaught on the Goan goal. A spate of corners was on the offing as the home side looked to make merry of the tempo. It was a role reversal for the quintessential defensive minded Habas as his side was up 2-0 in the first thirty minutes.
Meanwhile, FC Goa had another cause of concern as their star defender Gregory Arnolin hobbled off to be replaced by Denson Devadas at the stroke of halftime.
Zico in his search for goals, subbed off creative midfielder Joffre in the 54th minute, bringing on Reinaldo. New man Denson saw yellow as he bundled off Gavillan in what seemed to be a dangerous collision. But it was a sigh of relief for Habas as the Spaniard emerged unscathed.
Atletico de Kolkata opened up the visitors’ defense as incisive pass found Rafique on the right. He could not take advantage of the situation and gave it away meekly. In the 65th minute, Hume was at the end of a neat delivery from Rino Anto but could not find his scoring touch. Three minutes later he made up for the previous error as he found the back of the net from the penalty spot. It was another marauding run from Doutie who was brought down unfairly by Nicolau. Hume stepped up and sent Kattimani the wrong way to notch up his 6th goal.
The result was secured, but Atletico de Kolkata was in no mood to halt the juggernaut. In the 77th minute, an exquisite lob from the centre of the midfield from Nato found Doutie. The burst of pace from the youngster found him ahead of the Goa defence and he rounded off the goalkeeper to make it 4-0.
It was a rout as the defense of FC Goa crumbled under the pace and precision of Atletico de Kolkata. Doutie was becoming unstoppable and his contribution to all the goals was noteworthy. It was a well-deserved man of the match award for the 26-year old.
Zico would have a lot to talk about as his team was outplayed by the defending champions. Atletico reigned supreme in each sector of the play to achieve their first clean sheet of the tournament. This result takes them to the top of the table with 20 points from 12 games. The blistering form of the champions just before the playoffs would surely bring a wide grin to the passionate fans of Atletico de Kolkata.