Supersub Arata steals the show as ATK clinch 3 points against Kerala Blasters!
10th November 2015
ATK vs KBFC had been touted to be a match between two slightly beleaguered heavyweights, but it turned into a match-up between 2 supersubs. Well, almost!
The match ended with Atletico de Kolkata snatching away all three points, by virtue of a terrific brace from supersub Arata Izumi! More about that a little later. For now, let's just quickly sum up the match for those of you who might've missed it. The match was a humdinger as one team kept going ahead while the other kept finding ways of coming back into it. ATK put things in motion with defender Nallappan Mohanraj scoring the first goal. Kerala Blasters FC pulled things back before half time thanks to a successfully taken penalty by Antonio German (an early substitution for an injured Sanchez Watt). In the second half, KBFC came out all guns blazing but an unfortunate injury to the in-form Jaime Gavilan brought Aarata Izumi in, and he proved to be the difference between the two teams. Both teams fought hard but eventually, Arata showed his chops (again!) as his cross crept into the back of the net. German brought his team back in the reckoning once again with a superb left-footed strike. But, tonight was going to be Arata's night. Coming off an injury, Arata stole the show in the dying minutes by sealing the deal with a terrific goal during injury time. In the end, Atletico de Kolkata proved too good for KBFC, and got the better of them for the second time in a row this season. ATK now have 13 points, and have moved to the fourth position on the points-table. And, that's what is called a good day in the office!
ATK had gone into this match after having lost 4 of the last 5 matches they'd played. They were without the services of Augustin Fernandes and Arnab Mondal with both called up for national duty. The last match, played at home against NEUFC, had seen them lose by a lone goal in front of a partially-full Salt Lake Stadium. Josemi and Javi Lara, two very important members of the team, had gone home to treat their injuries. It wasn't going to be an easy match for our boys. But, the lions that they are, they roared and how! Loud and clear enough for everybody far and wide to sit up and take notice!
The match was a tale of two substitutes with Arata Izumi of ATK and Antonio German of the Blasters finding the net twice for their respective teams. But, a lot happened before the supersub showdown!
The capacity crowd at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Kochi was bathed in yellow. They were raucous, noisy, and buzzing with support for the home team. Atletico de Kolkata looked set to ruin their mood right at the outset by keeping the ball for the most part. The first 25 minutes saw ATK keep about 85% of the ball possession. Iain Hume, who was returning to Kerala for the first time since moving to ATK from KBFC, attempted two early headers. It showed the visitors' intent quite clearly- score and score quickly!
In the 12th minute, Rino Anto tried a fantastic long range effort with his left foot from outside the box. The shot went just over the top right corner, skimming the. The 15th minute saw two back-to-back corners for ATK, the first was taken short while the second was put into the near post. Both, sadly, failed to really test the Kerala Blasters FC defense. The deadlock was ultimately broken in the 28th minute. And, the goal came from the unlikeliest of sources. Mohanraj somehow found himself unmarked at the far post to convert a brilliant pass by Jaime Gavilan past Kerala keeper Stephen Bywater. The superb vision of Gavilan has got to be lauded. He has been terrific in the midfield for ATK, doling out some of the most delicious crosses in this season of the ISL. Not much of a surprise therefore that the Spaniard has notched up quite a fan following in Calcutta. Of course, his striking similarity with Bollywood star Hrithik Roshan has certainly added to his charms, but ah well, that's another story for another day! Props to Mohan for keeping calm till the end and managing to keep the ball down as he headed it in from point-blank range! It's his first ISL goal, and we sure hope there'll be more!
The 37th minute saw the withdrawal of Sanchez Watt through injury, and most ATK fans had wicked smiles on their faces. But, little did they know that this would turn out to be a blessing in disguise for the home side with German coming on to replace his fellow Englishman. The young striker received a mouthwatering opportunity within 2 minutes of his arrival and he had only the keeper to beat when he dragged his shot wide much to the disappointment of the yellow army, as the Kerala fans fondly call themselves. But, sadly for ATK, he went on to redeem himself shortly after.
Kerala's young Spanish playmaker Josu, who has been in fine form through this season, found himself in acres of space on the right of ATK's penalty area when Denzil Franco carelessly and a little recklessly, might I add, brought him down to give away a penalty four minutes from the break. Tjis time, German made no mistake and slotted the ball in calmly in the 41st minute to make it 1-1 at half-time.
ATK 1 (Nallappan Mohanraj 28')
KBFC 1 (Antonio German 41'P)
ATK made only one change to the line-up in the second half. Jewel Raja came in for Mohammed Rafique. We looked to re-establish our lead right from the start of the second half, as Ofentse Nato headed straight at goal in the 54th minute from a Sameehg Doutie corner. Kerala responded almost immediately through German once again who had, evidently, grown in confidence since scoring. His thunderous shot into Amrinder Singh's near post was parried behind for a KBFC corner. Amrinder has made a string of blinding saves this season, and tonight's match was no different!
Kerala were seeing more of the ball with the game approaching the hour mark.
The fourth attack index sees the Blasters who ahead with 58%. They did have three shots on goal in the first 15 minutes of the second half compared to the one of Atletico de Kolkata. Atletico head coach Antonio Habas decided it was time to bring in a pair of fresh legs in the 65th minute. He brought on Arata Izumi for Gavilan, who seemed to be in discomfort after knocking his ankle early on, in the hope of adding more teeth to ATK's midfield.
Arata was coming back after sitting out 4 matches owing to an unfortunate muscle injury. And, coach had sent him in at a very important time during an extremely crucial game. He has no time to settle in and find his rhythm. He, literally, had his task cut out- help ATK score! And, help he did. LIKE A BOSS!
Both teams were giving it their all in search of a winner. Kerala and Atletico made a real fist of it with the game tantalizingly poised towards the end. Hume had a golden chance to score in the 83rd minute but his shot, heartbreakingly, struck the post. Hume had a busy day in office, as usual, and not for a moment did his eyes get off the ball. If one has to talk about commitment, hard-work, and perserverance on the football pitch, Hume would be the perfect example. He's the epitome of every basic quality that a footballer ought to acquire and hone. No wonder the KBFC fans welcomed him back with extreme warmth even though he switched sides this season. Once you've watched Humey play, you'll be a fan for life!
But, it was comeback king Arata who eventually found the back of the net the very next minute! Commentators have spoken, time and again, about the nifty Japanese-born Indian midfielder's knack of finding himself at the right place at the right time. And, he proved them right once again, as a perfectly timed and placed cross from the left crept into the far post. There was absolutely nothing the keeper could have done, apart from curse his luck and admire Arata's cheeky goal!
But, the drama wasn't about to get over yet! Kerala equalized the very next minute courtesy of another strike from supersub German. This time the ball fell, very kindly, to him in the box and he unleashed an unstoppable shot towards the bottom right. The match was in the 86th minute, and had suddenly come back to life in its dying moments! The game was heading to a thrilling climax, and most of us had chewed half our nails away. My coffee had gone cold, and a bee buzzed in the froth. Yes, we were THAT engrossed! In the frantic closing stages of the game any side could have nicked the winner. But, it was ATK who did it first and did it in such inimitable style that KBFC and all their fans could only have gasped, sighed, and rued their luck for being at the receiving end of Arata's roaring comeback! A scrumptious ball from the right by Doutie was perfectly placed from inside the box for a sprinting Izumi to net in a 93rd minute winner. It was a gorgeous cross from Doutie, who's been shining in his flank for ATK, into the 6-yard box, and Arata gleefully tapped it in. Only a player of his caliber could've come up with such a calm and composed finish at such a time! All of us were thrilled to see him sprint halfway across the pitch to collect the cross at a speed that would put professional sprinters to shame. And, this after having not played 4 matches, and coming off a serious injury. Hats off to his commitment.
It was a good attacking display from ATK after their dismal loss to NEUFC last week. Everybody played their part and played it rather well. But, the night belonged to none other than ATK fan-favourite Arata Izumi. Coming back after an injury layoff during a high-pressure match could not have been easy, but Arata made it look like a walk-in-the-park..oh, I mean a sprint in the park! Kochi looks to be a happy hunting ground for him- from scoring twice in front of his mother during an I-league game to making his international debut for India, and now a match-winning brace only two days before his daughter turns a year old! What a lovely gift from a doting father, and a great story for the little one to grow up on!
Atletico de Kolkata has now zoomed into the top 4 with 13 points after nine games, and we sure hope they'll continue this form when they square up against the Delhi Dynamos on Saturday, Nov 14!
The Club Award went to, Atletico de Kolkata. Mohanraj won the Swift Moment of the Match while teammate Iain Hume was adjudged, not surprisingly, the Fittest Player of the Match Award. Rino Anto won the Emerging Player Award.
Although for us, the Hero of The Match, undoubtedly, was the lad from the land of the rising sun, Arata! Welcome back to the pitch, champ!