NorthEast beat Kerala in battle of nerves to win the first game of Season 3

NorthEast United FC began their Indian Super League campaign on the right note, edging past southern side Kerala Blasters in a 1-0 win at the Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium in Guwahati on Saturday. The game was a cagey and drab affair with both teams showing a lot of respect to each other in the initial exchanges. NorthEast United dominated the contest for long spells, and finally broke the deadlock through Katsumi Yusa’s 54th minute goal.

NorthEast United looked poised to pick up maximum points from the outset as they fielded an attacking line-up featuring Nicolas Velez, Holicharan Narzary and Emiliano Alfaro. Kerala, on the other hand, were content in soaking up the pressure and playing for the draw, but eventually succumbed to NorthEast’s attacking might in the second period. As many expected, the hosts started as the stronger of the two teams despite there being a limited number of chances in the opening minutes. The home side got their first look at goal in the 24th minute, courtesy of a sloppy pass by Kerala goalkeeper Graham Stack which was almost captialised by NorthEast attacker Nicolas Velez. A free-kick midway into the first half saw Velez out-jump his marker and head towards goal, but Stack did well to stretch wide and keep out the danger. The home side were constantly on the front foot in the opening 45 minutes but had nothing to show as the strikers were found wanting.

Northeast United FC's Emiliano Alfaro (L) is challenged for the ball by Kerala Blasters FC's defender Aaron Hughes during the Indian Super League (ISL) football match between Northeast United FC and Kerala Blasters FC at The Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium in Guwahati on October 1, 2016. ----IMAGE RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - STRICTLY NO COMMERCIAL USE-- / AFP / Biju BORO (Photo credit should read BIJU BORO/AFP/Getty Images)

Northeast United FC’s Emiliano Alfaro (L) is challenged for the ball by Kerala Blasters FC’s defender Aaron Hughes during the Indian Super League (ISL) football match between Northeast United FC and Kerala Blasters FC at The Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium in Guwahati on October 1, 2016. (Photo by BIJU BORO/AFP/Getty Images)

However, their defence was relaxed for most part of the first half but centre-backs Mailson Alves and Gustavo Lazzaretti were needed to stay alert whenever the three-man Blasters’ strike force came knocking at their doors. Two successive attempts in the 35th and 36th minutes were the closest they got but Antonio German’s shot from about 30 yards fell into the safe hands of goalkeeper Subrata Paul while Sandesh Jhingan miscued his header away from goal. After a number of half-chances in the first half, NorthEast finally broke the deadlock in the 54th minute. It was Velez who made it happen after making a dazzling run down the left flank before playing a pin-point cross into the box. Katsumi Yusa made a forward run to tap it into the goal.

Kerala Basters tried hard to find the equaliser and came close just after the hour mark. Jhingan’s attempted cross sailed towards goal and Subrata Paul dived frenetically to keep the ball away from danger. From the resultant corner kick, Subrata left his charge needlessly, got stranded, but the German’s strike from close range missed the target by a whisker. The hosts held on the secure a memorable victory and have three points in the bag from their first game of the third season.

Two previous champions collide in a mouth-watering contest on Sunday

Courtesy: ISL official website

Courtesy: ISL official website

Atletico de Kolkata, winners of the inaugural season in 2014, will take on the defending champions Chennaiyin FC who lifted the elusive title last year. With nothing to pick between the two, the game is primed to be a riveting encounter.

Team News And Tactical Brief

Atletico de Kolkata

Kolkata, under the tutelage of Jose Francisco Molina, will be looking to right all the wrongs of last season as Chennaiyin come visiting in their new home at the Rabindra Sarobar Stadium on Sunday. A change in playing conditions can certainly be a bit of a worry, given the quality of their opponents on the day, but the fans are set to cheer their side in numbers. The hosts clearly have an exceptionally strong side on paper with Canadian talisman Iian Hume leading the line for them. The charismatic striker played a crucial role in Atletico’s run to the semi final last term. He will be joined in the attack by marquee man Helder Postiga. The former Portugal international missed the majority of last season through an injury, and will be raring to take the field once again for the team that has vested a tremendous amount of faith and belief in him. Defender Arnab Mondal has been absolutely solid internationally as well for his local sides, and will undoubtedly be a rock in Atletico’s defence. 37-year-old Spanish goalkeeper Dani Mallo has been heavily talked about recently and is likely to start in goal for Kolkata.

Probable Starting XI (4-2-3-1): Debjith; Kotal, Mondal, Gallardo, Tiri; Borja, Raja; Jairu, Postiga, Doutie; Hume.

Chennai vs ATK - Football tactics and formations

Chennaiyin FC

Chennaiyin have arguably the best side on paper in the competition, and will be looking to retain their title under Marco Materrazzi’s guidance. The Italian manager is known to have a penchant for a quality defence and that is exactly what he has at his disposal for season 3 of the ISL. Bernard Mendy and Eder Monterio will look to form a seamless pairing at the heart of defence with John Arne Riise and Mehrajuddin Wadoo as full-backs. Quality defenders such as Dhanchandra Singh and Abhishek Das will give much needed depth to Materazzi’s side. In the attacking third, the acquisition of Hans Mulder will certainly benefit the Super Machans. Jeje Lalpekhlua has been omnipresent for the national side and will look to aide the Chennaiyin side to a successful title defence. Former FC Pune City striker Dudu is also a good option going forward for Materazzi.

Probable Starting XI (4-4-2): Karanjit; Wadoo, Mendy, Eder, Riise; Sahni, Augusto, Mulder, Thoi; Dudu, Jeje.

Prediction

Atletico de Kolkata 1-1 Chennaiyin FC

Given it’s there first game of the season, the players were certainly be bound to errors which could see the contest turn into an open attacking game. It looks both teams are strong sides on paper and already the front runners to lift the trophy. The attacking threat in both sides is palpable and it may cancel each other out, resulting in a 1-1 draw.

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