Former champions Atletico de Kolkata notched up their first victory of the tournament with a 1-0 win over Kerala Blasters FC in the Indian Super League football at Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium.
Javier Lara scored the all-important goal for ATK in the 54th minute that gave the visitors full points. ATK had played out a 2-2 draw against defending champions Chenniyin FC in their opening match in Kolkata.
Kerala Blasters were disjointed in their opening match against NorthEast United FC — which they lost 0-1 — and it did not surprise anyone that manager Steve Coppell made six changes to his side.
The former Manchester United winger handed starts to Ouzin Ndoye, Pratik Chaudhary, Mohammad Rafique, Josue Prieto, Farukh Choudhary and Duckens Nazon.
The new-look side took time to get into the groove and instead it were the visitors who started dominating at the start. ATK marquee player Helder Postiga and Iain Hume were combining well up front but that combination was disturbed in the 17th minute when Postiga was injured and had to be replaced by Juan Belencoso.
Postiga’s injury may have distracted Atletico de Kolkata momentarily but Belencoso could have been a super-sub had he remained alert. Two minutes after taking the field, Belencoso needed only a touch from Javier Lara’s cross from the left after Sandesh Jhingan had been robbed of possession, but the ball simply passed by as Belencoso was too slow to react in front of the goal.
Another chance for Atletico de Kolkata was wasted when Sameegh Doutie’s shot at goal was saved by the goalkeeper and Lara could not give finishing touches to the rebound.
Kerala by now had found their feet and were beginning to launch raids. In the 26th minute, Nazon got past two Kolkata players on the touchline and crossed the ball for Antonio German but the striker could only shoot the ball wide.
German tried his luck again, this time from a distance, but the powerful long-ranger sailed inches over the crossbar as the two teams trooped out for the break without any goal in their kitty.
Atletico de Kolkata broke the deadlock in the second session through Javier Lara. The Spanish dynamite was constantly bombarding the Kerala goal and he tasted success in the 54th minute when he picked up a pass from Belencoso, shot from just outside the box and the ball found the nets after taking a wicked deflection of Jhingan’s legs.
Kerala Blasters manager Steve Coppell tried to salvage something from this game by introducing fresher legs and changing formations but ATK defence stood its ground for the rest of the match to earn their first victory.