The Clash of The Titans Ends In A Stalemate
7th October 2015
It was touted to be the clash of the titans, and it wouldn't be entirely wrong to say that it did live up to all the hype that had been generated in the lead-up to the match! ATK and FC Goa have now drawn 4 of the 5 matches they've played against each other in 2 ISL seasons, with ATK having won the 5th during last season's semi-finals.
Habas and Zico's wards went into the match with convincing wins in their respective opening matches. ATK, though, were left without the services of 3 very important players- marquee player Helder Postiga who's flown home to Portugal to recover from a hamstring injury he had sustained while scoring thr second goal in the match against Chennaiyin FC, and their defensive mainstays Arnab Mondal and Rino Anto who're away on national duty. In Postiga's absence, Iain Hume and Javi Lara, who looked to have struck a good partnership on the left flank, were expected to influence the outcome of the match. And, they totally lived up to the expectations!
The defending champions made three changes to the starting XI that had faced Chennaiyin FC. Arata Izumi brought in to replace Helder Postiga, Arnab Mondal was replaced by Tiri and Rino Anto's spot was filled by local boy and Indian star Denzil Franco. The Gaurs, as FC Goa players are fondly called by fans, didn't make any changes to the line-up that had won against the Delhi Dynamos.
Habas arranged his boys in his usual formation of 4-2-3-1. Jaime Gavilan and Borja Fernandez sitting in front of the defence, Hume playing up front (like Postiga did in the last match) with Arata just behind him. Javi Lara and Baljit Sahni flanked him.
Goa, too, lined up in the 4-2-3-1 formation. Jofre and Denson shielded the defence, with Romeo Fernandes and Mandar Dessai ran up the flanks. Leo Moura played just behind their Brazilian striker, Reinaldo.
Like in the last match, ATK captain Borja won the toss, and we kicked off from left to right. The Goans stepped on the gas right from the word go. They were playing hard, pressing football and anybody could tell that Zico had trained his boys to try and score as early in the match as possible. The 9th minute saw former ATK midfielder Jofre at the centre circle finding Reinaldo with a lovely chip, which cleared ATK's midfield and defence. The Brazilian forward took a shot at goal, but the linesman ruled that it only hit the side net. Although, to us, it looked like Amrinder had pushed the shot out of play.
Ball possession kept shifting sides very frequently over the next few minutes, and before we knew it, there was a goal for ATK in the 13th minute. And, WHAT A GOAL IT WAS! Arata Izumi, playing his first ISL season, netted in an exquisite half volley, both feet in air! We'd seen him strike up a nice partnership with Javi Lara during the pre-season practice matches, and tonight it was on full display! Javi Lara popped up on the right flank. He took his time with the ball, never once losing sight of his mark, and crossed in a beauty around the six yard box. Izumi came in from behind Hume at the far post and hammered it into the net. What a stunner of a goal! In fact, it stunned the partisan home crowd at the Fatorda stadium into stunned silence. It felt as though someone had died in there! And, back home in Kolkata, loud cheers were heard across the city! Arata had arrived in the box just in time to connect with that delicious volley from Lara. He ran in a good 20 yards into the box. Those who follow Indian footnall would be aware that he has a knack for finding himself at the right place at the right time! Aren't we lucky to have him in our ranks, FanATKs?
The next 20 minutes saw repeated attacks on our goal by the Gaurs. And, why not? They were desperately seeking an equalizer! The 21st minute saw Goa midfielder Leo Moura attempt a shot from almost the halfway line that missed the far post by just a whisker. 37 year-old Brazilian World Cup winner Lucio, a defender, kept coming up to ATK's half trying to look for a goal! Borja was booked in the 42nd minute for a cynical challenge on Moura, and Gavilan in the 45th minute. Couple of minutes of added time before half-time saw an ugly tackle on Hume by Gregory (remember his spat with Fikru from last season?). it was a terribly ugly tackle, and the referee ought to have shown Gregroy a yellow card. But, lucky for him, the referee didn't seem to be in the mood to.
Atletico de Kolkata 1 (Arata Izumi 13')
FC Goa 0
In spite of some very pressing football, with even defender Lucio attacking, ATK firmly in the driver's seat thanks to Arata's acrobatic cracker of a goal! Atletico been the more clinical side by a distance with 3 of their 4 shots on goal being on target!
Second half started with Valdo coming in for Javi Lara. The 49th minute saw a skirmish between Nato and Jofre, and both players found themselves on the ground, with Nato even requiring medical assistance. The Gaurs were awarded a free kick. Jofre swung the ball in and found Lucio's head waiting for it at the far post. It was a good header, but sadly for the Brazilian veteran, it hit the upright. ATK had the opportunity to go up 2-0 in the 51st minute when Denson Devadas, who had been playing quite recklessly through the match, tackled Gavilan, and a free kick was given to Kolkata. Hume took it, and the shot looked good till it curled a little wide of the far post. This was around the time when Denson came up with a series of fouls, 6-7 on the trot. And, this is the exact point from where all the drama started to unfold. Arata passed a fine ball to Baljit in the 60th minute. But, he faltered, fell down and could come up with only a weak shot at the Goan goal. Immediately after, he was involved in an ugly tussle with Gregory. The referee intervened and showed Bajit a yellow card. Things were still under control, and would perhaps have not spiraled out had it not been for Gregory's unnecessary provocation. Out of what seemed like annoyance and irritation to us, Baljit headbutted Gregory ever-so-lightly. And, that set off Gregory who put his acting chops to great use! Baljit was red carded right away, and rightly so. What was surprising, though, that Gregory was not booked. ATK were reduced to 10 men with more than 30 minutes on the clock. Holding on the lead was not going to be easy!
Josemi came in for Gavilan in the 74', his first ISL match after sitting out the season opener due to an injury. Amrinder, in the meanwhile, had been saving shot after shot at our goal. He saved a particularly fantastic shot from Mandar Rao Desai in the 80th minute. But, Keenan Almeida's shot in the 81st minute proved to be too much for the already-under-fire Amrinder. Goan supporters was ecstatic that their team had pulled back one, taking advantage of the depleted ATK army.
Amrinder continued to show his chops for the next few minutes. In the 86nd minute, Amrinder made yet another cracking save as Jofre took a left footed shot on goal. This after Jonatan Lucca's corner was cleared away. Amrinder was blocking back-to-back shots!
In a match that saw 10 yellow cards being handed out (6 to ATK, 4 to FC Goa), the 88th minute saw one being doled out to Valdo for supposedly 'wasting time'. Syed Rahim Nabi came in for Arata in the 92nd minute. The 93rd minute saw Lucca taking yet another hard shot at the goal, but it landed straight into Amrinder's sure and safe hands!
The referee blew the whistle just as Amrinder came out of his line to punch a cross from Keenan away. Dramatic end for a dramatic match!
FC Goa have, thus far, never managed to get the better of ATK, and we're going to make sure it remains that way! Because, hello! We are the champions! And, we play FATAFATI FOOTBALL!
FULL TIME: Atletico de Kolkata 1 (Arata Izumi 13'):FC Goa 1 (Keenan Almeida 81')
Atletico de Kolkata starting XI: Amrinder Singh Sandhu (GK), Denzil Franco, Tiri, Ofentse Nato, Augustin Fernandes, Jaime Gavilan, Borja Fernandez (C), Baljit Sahni, Arata Izumi, Javi Lara, Iain Hume.
FC Goa starting XI: Elinton Andrade (GK), Debabrata Roy, Lucio (C), Keenan Almeida, Arnolin Gregory, Leo Moura, Denson, Mandar Dessai, Romeo Fernandes, Jofre, Reinaldo.
Hero of The Match: Arata Izumi