The group league of the inaugural season of the Indian Super League has reached its halfway stage and after the first seven encounters, Atletico De Kolkata leads the league table with 12 points. Atletico’s journey in the Indian Super League so far has been a roller coaster ride and the Saurav Ganguly co-owned side are one of the favorites so far.
The Campaign So Far
Before the start of the Indian Super League, experts didn’t predict ADK as the strongest team on paper as the team didn’t have any international icons in their line up. Just a few days before the ISL kicked off, ADK lost 1-3 to a local team in Kolkata in an exhibition match and that put some weight behind the experts’ predictions. However much to the surprise of many, ADK started their campaign with a thumping 3-0 victory over Mumbai City FC, a team predicted as favourites by many. ADK outplayed Mumbai City in every department in that game and proved to everyone that they are a much stronger team on the field than what they appear on paper. They kept up this momentum generated from this match and defeated North East United 2-0 in an away game at Guwahati.
Next the faced Alessandro Del Piero’s Delhi Dynamos back home. The match was an intense midfield battle between the two sides and finished in a 1-1 draw. ADK faced a tough away game against FC Goa next and Cavin Lobo’s heroics inspired them to a 2-1 win over the Goan side. This was ADK’s last victory in the first leg. After this match, striker Fikru Teferra and coach Antonio Habas were suspended for two matches for disciplinary reasons and this made a serious impact on the team’s performance . ADK just managed 2 points from their next two matches. They drew 1-1 against Kerala at home, another 1-1 draw against Chennaiyin and ultimately faced a 1-3 defeat at the hands of FC Pune City at the Salt Lake Stadium.
Positives and Negatives
Fikru Teferra, the Ethiopian international striker has been used as a targetman by the Kolkata side. Fikru played in South Africa in 2013-14 and there he was watched very closely by ADK’s coach, Antonio Lopez Habas. Thus Habas decided to pick up Fikru from the auctions. Fikru has not disappointed Habas so far. He scored the first goal of the ISL against Mumbai City FC, with a delightful chip over advancing keeper, Subrata Pal. Fikru’s second goal against North East United was even better. He beat North East’s Zambian defender, Kondwani and then scored from a briliant athletic side volley. Fikru has managed to score just one more goal in his next three matches, but he has managed to trouble all opponents with his blistering pace and his terrific athleticism.
The central defensive pair of Arnab Mondal and Josemi have been quite solid at the back for ADK. The Indo Spanish pair has managed to keep away attacks and it is mainly due to their tough defence that apart from the match against Pune, ADK never conceded more than one goal in a single game. Ofentse Nato, a current international for Botswana has been in good form for the club. The 24 year old defensive midfielder has been superb for ADK. He has played as a screen in front of the defence and has soaked up a lot of pressure from the back four. Nato has also originated a number of attacks for ADK along with Borja Fernandes.
The biggest negatives so for has been the fact tha ADK’s players have lost their temper on a number of occasions in the tournament and thus they have been on the receiving end of a number of suspensions due to red cards and other disciplinary issues. In the 7 matches played so far, 3 ADK players have seen red cards, namely – Borja Fernandes, Rakesh Masih and Jofre. Apart from that striker Fikru Teferra and coach Antonio Habas have also received disclinary suspensions. ADK’s attack is over dependent on Fikru to get them goals. The other strikers, namely Arnal Libert, Baljit Sahni and Mohammad Rafi needs to get amongst goals and reduce the burden on Fikru.
The Path Ahead
Atletico kicks off their 2nd leg’s campaign today against Chennaiyin at the Salt Lake Stadium. The result of this match will decide which team will stay at the pinnacle of the ISL’s league table after the 8th round. ADK’s first target would be to ensure that they reach the semi finals of the ISL. It has been predicted that a team would need at-least 20 points to reach the semis. ADK already have 12 points in their bag and a win against Chennaiyin would mean that they need just 5 more points from their next 6 matches to qualify.
The 2nd leg will not be easy for ADK. The average age of ADK’s players is comparatively higher than most of the other teams in the ISL. Thus as the tournament proceeds, ADK’s players are expected to tire out more than the other teams. In the first leg, ADK had an element of surprise associated with them as the other teams were not well aware of their strengths and weaknesses. In the 2nd leg, that element of surprise will be gone and opponent teams will come out with a better plan against them.