Rejuvenated ATK face FC Goa challenge

The most successful ISL franchise had kicked off their title defence on a shaky note after being winless from four matches.

By: PTI | Kolkata | Published: January 2, 2018 1:53:07 pm

Indian Super League, ISL, ATK Kolkata vs Mumbai City FC, Mumbai City FC, sports news, football, Indian Express ATK are now at seventh place with eight points from six matches. (Source: ISL)

Upbeat after registering the season’s maiden home victory, defending champions ATK would look to continue their winning run when they face FC Goa in an Indian Super League match.

The most successful ISL franchise had kicked off their title defence on a shaky note after being winless from four matches.

But the two-time champions have brought their title campaign back on track with successive victories over Mumbai City and Delhi Dynamos, the last coming at their home ground Saltlake Stadium in their last round fixture.

ATK are now at seventh place with eight points from six matches.

The season’s maiden home victory only turned sweeter when star Irish captain Robbie Keane fired home the winner in a sheer moment of brilliance.

The hosts broke the deadlock 12 minutes from time when Keane chested the ball from substitute Bipin Singh’s headed pass, brought it down, and turned his marker before placing the ball exquisitely into the bottom right corner of the goal.

While ATK appeared to be finding their mojo back, fancied Goa have started slipping after securing four wins from five outings. They are now placed fifth in the standings with 12 points from six games.

The Gaurs will be smarting from a 0-2 defeat against FC Pune City at Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium — their maiden home defeat of 2017-18 season.

This was also the first time of the season that the Goans failed to find the back of the net and they would be under pressure to score against a Keane-bolstered ATK attack.

Goa’s defence is not as strong as their attacking unit and the Teddy Sheringham-coached side would be hoping to take the early advantage to put pressure on the visitors.

“Like I have said before, we lose and win as a team. Had we taken our chances, the game would have been completely different. When we moved up the field, we left a bit of space behind, and they took advantage of that. But I don’t see it as a problem with the defence today,” Goa’s Spaniard head coach Sergio Lobera said.

The 40-year-old, however, wants to take the positives into count ahead of the big match.

“The loss made sure that our feet are grounded. It tells us that we still have a lot of work to do. We have to improve our mistakes, and we have to be capable to grab our chances,” Lobera said.

It’s not only Keane but the inclusion of former Newcastle United player Ryan Taylor, who was brought in as a replacement for the injured Carl Baker, that has benefited the red-and-whites.

In his debut for ATK against at Mumbai, Taylor ran the show from the midfield and also created opportunities in their win over Delhi.

“He (Taylor) has been very good. We lost Carl Baker to injury, and I was very lucky to pick up the phone and call Ryan to come over at the drop of a hat,” Sheringham said.

“He could not wait to get over here, and I am delighted with his reaction. He has been fantastic in the midfield. He has played at the top level in the Premier League. He knows the game and he has great qualities as well.”

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