Atletico de Kolkata go top of the table with a comeback win over Northeast United FC
Atletico de Kolkata came from behind to emerge victorious against Northeast United FC at the Indira Gandhi Athletic stadium on Friday. The season 1 champions went top of the table with that win with 12 points off 7 games.
The home side went into this game as table-toppers, and the intent was clear from Nelo Vingada’s men. They started like a house on fire and were rewarded when Emiliano Alfaro headed in from a stunning Nirmal Chettri cross. The first half largely belonged to the hosts, who always seem to have the 12fth man advantage, with just less than 31,000 supporters packing the stadium.
However, the tide changed in the second half. Jose Molina made an attacking change, bringing on marquee player Helder Postiga. The former Portugal striker created immediate panic after coming on and the momentum was with the visitors. Atletico sensed an equalizer, and when Didika Ralte’s cross from the left was floated in towards Postiga, the striker didn’t disappoint. The cross didn’t have enough pace on it, but Postiga managed to ripple Subrata Paul’s net despite a challenge from Didier Zakora.
Postiga was on the helm of things again, when his shot in the 82nd minute was deflected and it fell for Ralte. The former Mumbai City FC man unselfishly drilled in a dangerous ball across the face of goal, and Belencoso obliged. The Northeast defence was nowhere to be seen, and Jose Molina’s men leapfrogged their opponents in the Hero Indian Super League table.
Southern Rivals Kerala Blasters & Chennaiyin FC Face Off
Fourth placed Chennaiyin FC play host to fifth placed Kerala Blasters who seemed to have enjoyed some bit of resurgence after a below par start to the season
Team News and Tactics
The visitors are on the back of a 1-1 draw against FC Pune City, and Marco Materazzi’s men will be rearing to put a few wins together and get to the desired spot in the table. Chennayin’s strikers, Succi and Jeje, have both been in good form. Jeje scored one of the best goals of the season so far when he chipped FC Pune City’s goalkeeper Eder, to earn his side a point. Succi, who had the difficult task of filling Steven Mendoza’s boots, scored the winner for the Champions against Northeast United FC, and it looks like Materazzi does not have to worry about scoring goals.
However, using the width of the pitch has been a problem for Chennayin FC. There isn’t enough pace and trickery in the ranks to run and get past full-backs, which hasn’t provided the required service to the likes of Succi. Skipper Wadoo has been solid at the back, with former Liverpool FC full-back, John Arne Riise driving the team from defense.
Materazzi made no secret of the fact that his team will take the field on Saturday with an aggressive approach. They were too reluctant going forward in their previous game ( Antonio Habas said after FC Pune City 1-1 Chennayin FC, that the latter didn’t create a single chance in the second half ) and will be looking to change that against the Kerala Blasters. A 4-1-2-3 formation is expected, with Blasi and Mulder in the centre of midfield, behind Jeje, Rane and target man Succi. As mentioned earlier, Rane is highly ineffective on the left wing and Materazzi definitely has a problem to fix if Chennayin FC are to make the playoffs this season.
Probable IX : Karanjit, Wadoo, Riise, Sabia, Jerry, Khabra; Mulder, Blasi; Rane, Jeje, Succi
The Sachin Tendulkar-owned franchise made it to the final of the inaugural season, eventually losing to Atletico de Kolkata. Last season was a major disappointment as their shout for a playoff spot was damped pretty early in the season. However, head coach Steve Coppell will be looking to make amends to their inconsistent run in the Indian Super league.
Kerala Blasters will be high on confidence after they came from behind to beat FC Goa in Goa in their previous game and have eight points off six matches. These two sides have had some fierce battles in the last two seasons, one of them being the thrilling playoff in season one where Kerala managed to send Chennayin FC packing and reached the final of the inaugural season. However, Steve Coppell dismissed thinking of the past encounters, and insisted it does not matter. Aaron Hughes and John Arne Riise will be up against each other yet again, as they were during their stints at Fulham and Liverpool respectively in the English Premier League.
A great come back against FC Goa means Coppell woudn’t want to make many changes to the personnel. Sandeep Nandy has been decent so far between the sticks, with marquee Aaron Hughes and Cedric Hengbart protecting his goal. Rafique, the Kerala boy who scored against FC Goa ( much to the delight of the fans ) and German will be looking to provide the supply to the center forward Rafi. A 4-2-3-1 formation is expected, with Azrack and Hossain sitting in front of the back four.
Probable IX : Nandy, Hughes, Hengbart, Jhingan, Josu, Azrack, Hossain, Rafique, German, Chopra, Rafi
Prediction : Chennayin 2-1 Kerala Blasters
With almost half of the campaign played out, both teams have been decent so far but yet to hit top gear. Chennayin might just edge this one as they look to finally get to business and grab one of the playoff spots that hasn’t eluded them in the first couple of Indian Super League seasons.
Image Courtesy : Indian Super League Media