Atletico de Kolkata turn out to be the bogey opponent for Kerala Blasters, as super sub Izumi Arataa s two late goals snatches the victory in favour of Kolkata.
Both Kerala Blasters and Atletico de Kolkata opted for two changes to their lineup from the previous match, but Antonio Lopez Habasa s tweak in tactics ahead of the match is likely to have been the masterstroke from the defending champions.
Atletico de Kolkata missed the duo of Arnab Mondal and Augstine Fernandes due to national duty, Kerala Blaster had to deal with the absence of Sandesh Jhingan. Terry Phelan brought in Bruno Perone in defence for the Blasters, as Joao Coimbra made way to keep the foreign quota in check. While Habas swapped to a 3-5-1-1 formation from his preferred 4-2-3-1 formation to accommodate the absence of national team players as Napallan Mohanraj and Rino Anto started the match in place of Jewel Raja and Augustine Fernandes.
It was the day of the substitutes as Izumi Arata and Antonio German grabed a brace for their respective teams but it Nallapan Mohanraj, who broke the deadlock first for ATK, German equalised soon after coming on as a substitute for Sanchez Watt for Kerala. Substitute Izumi got the lead for ATK on the 84th minute but a minute later German restored parity for the second time. ATK, though, werena t going to be denied three points today, as Izumia s late second goal of the night in injury time acted as the hammer blow.
Kerala Blasters enjoy a huge support but Atl tico de Kolkata, from the kickoff, meant business and early attacking patterns showed the course of the day. Kerala Blasters soon after going down suffered yet another apparent bad news with the injury to Watt, but it turned out to be a boon in disguise as inspired German took the game by the scruff of its neck and soon found the equaliser from the penalty spot, after Josu was fouled inside the box.
Both teams went hammer and tongs to take the lead with Ofentse Nato header saved, while Atletico goalkeeper Amrinder forced to respond a with brilliant save of his own few minutes later. The second half saw Kerala Blasters making headway, as ATK players found it tough to continue with the new formation Habas made the brilliant move of bringing in Arata in place of Jamie Gavilan.
It wasna t until the 83rd minute that any team looked to return home with three points, but Arataa s substitution saw ATK, in search of a winner, with the second wind. Arata made no mistake to turn in from the corner. The goal woke up the Blaster and German made sure that Kerala wouldna t go down without a fight by grabbing the equaliser. The final few minutes was tense as both sides went for the winner but Arataa s goal on the counter proved to the final nail to the coffin.
ATK went on the counter and Sameehg Doutiea s cross was met by an on rushing Izumi to net in a 93rd minute winner. ATK, who have recently lost few match by conceding goals in injury time, seems to have returned the favour as pin-drop silence fell across the stadium.
Image Courtesy: ISL Media