Atletico with one foot in the semi-finals
Atletico de Kolkata maintained their excellent unbeaten record against FC Goa as they scripted a dramatic 2-1 victory to leave FC Goa on the brink of elimination from Hero Indian Super League at Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, Fatorda-Goa, on Thursday.
Juan Belencoso gave Kolkata the lead in 28th minute but FC Goa equalised through Mandar Rao Desai in the 80th minute. The visitors however had the last laugh after scoring matchwinner in the second minute of added time.
The victory took Kolkata to the second spot with 18 points from 12 matches and almost knocked out FC Goa as the team coached by Zico is at the bottom with 11 points from 12 matches.
Zico welcomed several players who were forced to sit out through suspensions and injuries but it were Atletico de Kolkata who came up with a dominating show in the first session. Spanish players Javi Lara and Borja Fernandez controlled the midfield while upfront Helder Postiga and Juan Belencoso were a constant threat.
It didn’t take long for Atletico de Kolkata to exert their influence on the game and the visitors had their first chance in seventh minute. Abhinash Ruidas tuned a good cross from the left which Postiga tried to test the goalkeeper. The ball instead deflected and fell for Belencoso but his effort from close range was blocked by the legs of goalkeeper Laxmikant Kattimani.
The Indian was in top form when he denied Javi Lara’s angular shot from just inside the box but the Goa goalkeeper could do nothing when Belencoso jumped high to meet a cross from Ruidas in the 28th minute.
Despite being behind, Goa could not create chances and had no chances of note. Rafael Coelho’s ambitious overhead kick from a Joffre Gonzalez corner was the closest they got but had Postiga’s header not hit the crossbar from Lara’s corner, it would have been all over for Goa.
Even in the second session, Kolkata continued to miss chances. Postiga’s shot after Richarlyson gave the ball away in a dangerous position was saved by Kattimani and Belencoso should have done better in the 60th minute with only the goalkeeper to beat.
The match turned interesting in the last 10 minutes after Mandar Rao Desai secured the equaliser for FC Goa in the 80th minute. The Goa midfielder received a ball just outside the box and unleashed a powerful grounder which beat Kolkata goalkeeper Debjit Majumder.
For the last 10 minutes, FC Goa literally camped in the Kolkata half and allowed space for visitors to score the match winner in the second minute of added time from a counter attack. A freekick in the Kolkata side saw them taking if quickly and Sameehg Doutie did well to pick up Pearson for an easy finish.
Kerala and Pune face off in a must-win game for both sides
Kerala Blasters coach Steve Coppell believes his team has a very good chance of qualification to semi-finals of Hero Indian Super League if they play to their potential against FC Pune City at Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, Kochi, on Friday.
The hosts are outside the top four for now with 15 points from 11 matches but a win against Pune, placed fourth with the same number of points but a better goal difference will push them to the second spot, behind league leaders Mumbai City FC.
After conceding five against Mumbai City FC, Kerala will be hoping to shapen up their defence with Sandesh Jhingan and Cedric Hengbart operating as centre-backs ahead of Graham Stack in goal.
In midfield, Mehtab Hossain and Azrack Mahamat will look to pull the strings while the pacey duo of CK Vineeth and Josu Currais will give the Blasters threat from wide areas. Antonio Germain is expected to lead the line.
Kerala Blasters Probable XI: Stack; Chaudhari, Jhingan, Hengbart, Anto; Hossain, Mahamat; Vineeth, Kadio, Currais; Germain.
FC Pune City
Narayan Das will be hoping to improve on his previous performances as he will start as a left-back for Pune against Kerala on Friday. On the opposite side of defence, Dharmaraj Ravanan will look to continue his good run of form post his suspension.
Moving further up the field, Lenny Rodrigues and Mohamed Sissoko will sit as a two in midfield, letting the attacking midfield comprising of Arata Izumi, Jonathan Lucca and Gustavo Oberman to supplement Anibal Zurdo Rodriguez up front.
FC Pune City Probable XI: Bete; Ravanan, Singh, Ferreira, Das; Lenny, Sissoko; Izumi, Lucca, Oberman; Rodriguez.
Kerala Blasters 1-1 FC Pune City
With both teams going for the kill, the game is likely to be an open and expansive encounter and goals could come in aplenty if the attacking players on both sides are on show on Friday. Both sides have decent strength in the final third and finding the back of the net should not be a hard task. Also, both defences have not been at their prolific best this season and are likely to breached.