If the first three games had provided sparklers for the ISL 2016, the tournament’s third season truly took off at Kochi tonight. An open game combined with a vociferous crowd of 65,000 odd made for a brilliant showing of both football and the passion the Indians have for the game.
However, the sea of yellow failed to propel their side to their first point as a 52nd-minute strike from Javi Lara was enough to seal the deal for Atletico de Kolkata, gifting Jose Molina his first win as coach of the Kolkata side since taking over at the start of the season.
Whilst the home side did make a roaring comeback in the late stages, the visitors held on to all three points, which now sees them going to the second spot on the table.
Here are the five biggest talking points of the game.
#1 Atletico wingers show their class
Whilst Javi Lara might have stolen the show with his goal, it has to be said that Sameehg Doutie is surely carving out his name as one of the most potent foreigners to have played in the ISL.
Lara had a more than decent game in the opener which saw him produce some top quality crosses from the dead ball situations. And today he carried on his outstanding form, eventually culminating in the winner. Whilst the goal will make the highlight reels, what might go unnoticed is how he took up the huge responsibility of filling in for the injured Helder Postiga and didn’t let the Kolkata side feel their marquee signing’s absence.
The Spaniard moved in from his usual position on the left and kept the ball ticking, playing a masterful role as the team’s number 10. He probably should have had an assist to his name as well if Belencoso had been on his toes.
On the other side of the field, Sameehg Doutie, who probably should have been the man of the match for Kolkata in their opener against Chennaiyin again showed his industrious nature and tenacious speed. The South African’s pace was always a worry for Steve Coppell's side and Kolkata went to the fleet-footed winger time and again to stretch the game.
He too should have had his second assist of the tournament after delivering an inch-perfect cross into the box in the 47th minute only to see it being glanced wide, again by Belencoso.
Atletico play a brand of football which sees the ball move forward quickly through intricate play and movement. If they are to threaten for the title this season, they need their wingers to deliver time and again. And so far they have.