Atletico de Kolkata played out a goal-less draw against Chennaiyin FC in a high-intensity Indian Super League fixture on Friday to maintain their top spot. Watched by a starry Bollywood gathering of Bachchan father-son duo and Deepika Padukone, the match had all the ingredients of an eventful contest, including an 11-minute interruption thanks to a familiar power outage at the Yuva Bharati Krirangan.
But a goal eluded both the teams and ATK would consider themselves unlucky after their star striker Fikru Teferra fluffed an easy chance while marquee player and captain Luis Garcia’s free-kick hit the crosspiece.
Even Chennaiyin FC very nearly went one-up in the 80th minute when Balwant Singh scored using a Jean-Eudes Maurice cross. But the Indian striker’s deflection of his hands was spotted by referee Pratap Singh, who disallowed the goal.
Chennaiyin’s star Brazilian forward Elano Blumer also had a lacklustre day, missing some easy opportunities while his clinical freekicks too eluded him a goal. Both teams refused to play second fiddle in the top of the table clash but it was ATK who had the best opportunity with Fikru firing it wide of the post.
In a 21st minute move, a full charged-up ATK dished out some amazing interplay between Garcia, Nato and Fikru who found himself in front of an open goal. But the Ethiopian let the team down firing it wide of the post in the best chance of the first-half. If Fikru’s shot broke the hearts of the 45,000-odd crowd in the first-half, former Liverpool star Luis Garcia hit the crossbar after a powerful curling left-footer on the edge of the box in the 62nd minute.
The Spaniard sent the ball curling towards the right top corner but the framework denied him as ATK had to settle for one point to retain their lead over the Chennai side on top of the table by virtue of goal difference.
ATK made a couple of changes to their line up as their influential playmaker Jofre, who was suspended for their last match, returned in place of Kingshuk Debnath while Lester Fernandez replaced Cavin Lobo. In their battle for the top spot, Chennaiyin FC also made two changes, bringing in Eric Djemba-Djemba and Dane Pereira for Bojan Djordjic and Denson Devdas.
After the match Chennaiyin FC assistant coach Vivek Nagul said two more wins may be enough for his side to book a semi-final berth.
“Two wins would really secure a place. If a couple of games can be won by us or by Kolkata it could secure a place,” Nagul told reporters.
He said that ATK deserved three points today. “We missed our two central defenders but our performance deserved the one point. ATK are very good, they know how to keep the ball. It was a tough game but we are happy with one point,” he said, adding that they hope to play ATK in the semi-finals.
French defender Mikael Silvestre said the artificial turf at the Salt Lake Stadium was not ideal. “We will adapt with experience. But this is not the best of artificial turfs either, hope they change to grass soon,” he said.
Atletico de Kolkata’s coach Habas said they couldn’t score from the chances they created. “The match was very intense. The crowd support was good. Hope it continues,” he said.