ATK march to the Semi-Finals with a draw against Kerala
29th November 2016
Venue: Rabindra Sarobar Stadium, Kolkata
ATK Starting XI: Debjit Majumder(GK), Josť Luis Espinosa Arroyo, Arnab Mondal, Iain Hume, HElder Postiga, Borja Fernandez(C), Pritam Kotal, Javier Lara Grande, Robert Lalthlamuana, Stephen Paul Pearson, Abinash Ruidas.
Kerala Blasters Starting XI: Graham Stack(GK), Cedric Hengbart, Aaron Hughes(C), Kervens Belfort, Ishfaq Ahmed, CK Vineeth, Mehtab Hossain, Elhadji Ndoye, Mohammed Rafi, Sandesh Jhingan, Josu Currais.
With ATK and Kerala Blasters gearing up for action at the rear end of the league, it was always touted to be a grand affair and one which would be savoured by the most passionate fans nationwide, as boasted by both the teams.
ATK came with the aim to repeat their performance from the first leg where they defeated Kerala at their own den and looked forward to book a solid berth in the Semi-Finals of ISL 2016. After having won their last away match against FC Goa, the team looked upbeat to take on the Kerala challenge, who had got back their composure after a win against FC Pune City at home.
Jose Molina went back to his native 4-2-3-1 formation while bringing in a single change in the line-up. Iain Hume regained his position at the head of the attack after coming back from injury in the place of Juan Belencoso, covered by Helder Postiga from behind and Javi Lara and Abinash Ruidas on either flanks. The midfield was manned by captain Borja Fernandez and Stephen Pearson, while the defensive line-up had the likes of Arnab Mondal, Tiri, Robert Lalthlamuana and Pritam Kotal guarding the frontier along with Debjit Majumdar.
Before the match started all 22 players along with the entire stadium stood up in a minute's silence to show solidarity with the departed souls of the Chapecoense tragedy.
The match started on an even pitch with most of the play happening in the midfield until the 5th minute, when ATK was awarded the first free kick of the match. Borja's cross found Ruidas at the far left of the box but he failed to control the ball. Kerala counter-attacked from a corner but Jhingan's header was collected by Debjit.
ATK's first proper chance rose in the 7th minute when Javi Lara sent a through pass towards Stephen Pearson, past the Kerala defenders. Pearson slid to connect with the the ball and netted it. However, the goal was disallowed as Javi Lara was caught in an offside position.
In the very next minute, a mistake by Debjit gifted Kerala an early lead. Debjit attempted to collect a long cross inside the box going out of his position. The ball popped out of his outstretched hands and manage to finds its way towards Kerala's CK Vineeth who made no mistake as he headed the ball into an open goal.
ATK, however, came back strongly with Javi Lara managing to keep Kerala on their toes by sending in good crosses inside the box from the right flank. In the 17th minute, Postiga had a chance to make things equal as he made some space for him amidst the defenders, but his shot missed the target, much to the relief of Kerala.
The 19th minute showcased a fabulous team work by ATK leading to the much-needed Equaliser. Hume sent a flying ball toward Postiga who sent a curling through pass inside the box past the reach of the defenders. Pearson made a stunning run from the midfield to collect the perfect pass and lodged it in past the flailing hands of the keeper to bring in his second goal of the season and the equaliser.
ATK continued to show great teamwork along with swift passses, accurate crosses and shots with Borja, Hume, Javi Lara, Postiga, Pearson and Ruidas being the centre of them all. From the 25th minute, Kerala tried to gain back their momentum. While Belfort's curling shot at goal was collected by Debjit, Tiri's immense speed overcame Vineeth and denied him another chance to score. By the 32nd minute, the attack index read 72% in the favour of ATK.
In the rest of the half, ATK continued to put pressure on their opponents and came quite close to score another. While Postiga's powerful cross inside the box was intercepted by Aaron Hughes, Javi Lara, Borja and Postiga tried to bring into effect one of their set pieces from a free kick, which eventually went out of play after grazing Postiga's head.
Before the end of the first half, both ATK and Kerala got opportunities which could not be converted. While Postiga's misdirected header from a Ruidas cross sent the ball out of play, Rafi sent his header from a corner ball way over the goal post.
Two minutes were added to the first half of play and ended with Kerala trying a last attempt at goal when Currais' free kick found a towering Ndoye, who headed it off-target.
HT Scoreline: Atletico de Kolkata 1:1 Kerala Blasters
First Half stats:
Possession: ATK 61% : 39% KER
Attacking Index: ATK 45% : 55% KER
Number of Passes: ATK 205 : 121 KER
Passing Accuracy: ATK 68% : 53% KER
Interceptions: ATK 7 : 1 KER
Crosses: ATK 13 : 9 KER
Jose Molina made a single change at the halfway mark where Robert Lalthlamuana was substituted for Keegan Pereira. The half started with another display of fine skills and teamwork in between Postiga, Borja, Hume, Ruidas and Lara.
In the first 15 minute, ATK had a number of chances from Keegan Pereira and Arnab Mondal crosses but during both times Kerala managed to overcome the ATK attacker and send the ball away to safety. Both Iain Hum and Keegan Pereira picked up yellow cards for small errors in judgement.
By the 80th minute, Molina brought in Juan Belencoso in the place of Iain Hume to introduce fresh legs into the attack. The match continued to be played around in the middle, with no team being able to lead a breakthrough.
Both Kerala's Rafi and Postiga sent long distance attempts at goal only to find the keeper collect it smoothly during both times. With three minute added to the final half of play, Sameehg Doutie entered the game, replacing Lara in the process.
With a last attempt at goal from ATK, wherein Postiga's header from a Mondal cross got collected by Stack, the match came to an end.
FT Scoreline: Atletico de Kolkata 1:1 Kerala Blasters
Possession: ATK 61% : 39% KER
Number of Passes: ATK 437 : 240 KER
Passing Accuracy: ATK 69% : 53% KER
Interceptions: ATK 9 : 7 KER
Crosses: ATK 19 : 14 KER
In the after match Awards, ATK bagged three awards:
Hero of the Match: Stephen Pearson
ISL Emerging player of the match: Abinash Ruidas
DHL Winning Pass of the Match: Helder Postiga
With this draw, ATK secured their place in the Semi-finals of the ISL 2016, which is their third consecutive representation as they have qualified every year from the inception. They now sit at third in the points table with 19 points behind Mumbai City FC and Delhi Dynamos.
ATK's last league match of the season will take place at home against FC Pune City on the 2nd of December.
Till then,keep supporting the team and chant #AamarBukeyATK!