Athletico De Kolkata vs Kerala Blasters brought together two teams that were on opposite ends of the points table. The odds were against Atletico de Kolkata with numerous suspensions and injuries but the league leaders managed to play out a 1-1 draw versus Kerala Blasters at home in Salt Lake Stadium. Baljit Sahni scored his first goal of 2014 Indian Super league (ISL) to put the Kolkata franchise in front at the 22nd minute. But Iain Hume’s surprise goal in the 41st minute not only drew the match level but also helped Kerala get their first point of the season.
Atletico missing key players
Atletico de Kolkata made a stunning comeback to win their last match against FC Goa but were embroiled in some unwelcome news. Their head coach Antonio Lopez Habas was handed a four-match ban by the ISL for breaching the disciplinary code. Also in-form star striker Fikru Teferra got banned for two matches.
With injuries to regular captain Luis Garcia and defender Denzil Franco, the table toppers looked to be in troubled waters. Arnal Llibert was put up front in place of Fikru as the main striker.
Kerala fails to capitalise
Kerala Blasters began the match with greater possession but failed to create any goal-scoring opportunity. With a depleted Atletico de Kolkata that had a vulnerable midfield due to Garcia’s injury, Trevor Morgan’s men should have capitalised on the chance.
Baljit opens account for Kolkata
Kerala’s lack of sense of urgency handed the advantage back to the league leaders who struck in the 22nd minute. Jofre Mateu sent a low cross to stand-in skipper Borja Fernandez who passed it to his right to Baljit Sahni. The East Bengal player finished it off with a powerful angular right-footer.
The home side had clearly upped their intensity since then as the attack index showed that Atletico had 64% attack index in the 16th-30th minute while Kerala had a meagre 36% only. And the results were visible.
Mateu creates opportunities
The Sourav Ganguly-owned team had another brilliant opportunity to double the lead just six minutes after the first goal. Once again Jofre Mateu was the architect as he sent a cross to an advancing Arnal Llibert who squandered it.
Atletico looked the better team as they continued to press on. Jofre once again darted with the ball in the 35th minute but superb defense from Cedric Hengbart saved the blushes for the southern team.
Hume draws level
But, out of nowhere, the Men in Yellow struck an equaliser in the 41st minute. Scottish born Canadian international Iain Hume blasted the ball past an onrushing Subhasish Roy Chowdhury to level the scores.
Atletico resumed the match in the second half with the same attacking flair. In the 53rd minute as Jofre Mateu dribbled the ball and made a cross to Baljit Sahni who unfortunately found the crossbar.
The match started getting physical in the second half with a few rough tackles and resulting injuries. In the 72nd minute, the home team had a good opportunity on the counter. Sahni put himself in front only to be pulled down by Iain Hume. The Canadian was booked for his act. Earlier, even Sahni was warned for a tackle against Kerala’s Sandesh Jhingan.
It didn’t end there for the table toppers. More warnings came their way as in the 76th minute substitute Rakesh Masih too was yellow carded for a challenge on Jhingan.
Injuries too slowed down the tempo of the game. After the 78th minute, the match was interrupted by a long injury break as Mehtab Hossain had his head bandaged. Minutes after resumption, Sandesh Jhingan too had to be taken out for an apparent calf strain.
Atletico made a last ditch effort in the dying minutes of the match but the 6’55’’ custodian David James ruined their chances with some alert goalkeeping.
Atletico still rules points table
Despite missing some of their key players, Atletico de Kolkata still remains unbeaten in the league so far with 11 points. But from Kerala Blasters’ perspective it was an important match as they salvaged some pride with their first point of 2014 ISL after two consecutive losses.
Atletico de Kolkata next travel to Chennai to meet Chennaiyin FC on 4th November while Kerala Blasters will be entertained by FC Pune City on 30th October.