ISL 2015: Arata Izumi brace gives Atletico de Kolkata thrilling 3-2 win over Kerala Blasters in Kochi
Kerala Blasters lost 3-2 to Atletico de Kolkata at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Kochi in match 34 of the Indian Super League. It was the visitors who scored first when Mohanraj Nallapan scored in the 28th minute. But Antonio German equalised from the spot in the 42nd minute to make it 1-1 going into the break.
Arata Izumi gave Atletico the lead again late in the second half but German was on the scoresheet within a minute to equalise again. But it was Izumi who had the last laugh when he scored again in the final minute to make it 3-2 to the visitors.
First Half: Atletico take lead before conceding penalty
Kerala Blasters went into the do or die encounter making just two alterations to that side that beat FC Pune City. Sandesh Jhingan and Joao Coimbra made way for Bruno Perone and Ishfaq Ahmed. New boss Terry Phelan chose to go ahead with same system of playing the traditional four across the back.
The visitors also made a couple of changes to the side that was beaten by NorthEast in the previous round of fixtures, in came Mohanraj and Rino Anto replacing Augustin Fernandes and Shaikh Jewel Raja. Antonio Habas’ injury plagued Atletico had to make do without key players such as Javi Lara, Josemi and Helder Postiga.
Both the sides were without two Indian National Team players apiece as they were obliged to release them for International duty.
The ferocity of the encounter was evident right from the word go, as there were tackles and challenges flying in during the timid opening minutes. It was Atletico who got things going in the attacking department when Blasters’ former talisman Iain Hume headed a cross from the right onto the safe hands of goalkeeper, Stephen Bywater.
Kerala’s first attempt came from the in-form Mohammed Rafi who sent the ball glancing over the cross bar with his head after a teasing ball in from the left by Josu Prieto. Local boy, Rino Anto had a sighter at goal in the 11th minute for Kolkata, but the effort was seen all the way through by the alert Bywater.
The Blasters came close in the 20th minute when Mohammed Rafi produced some tidy footwork from the left beating Rino Anto and Fernandez in the process, only to put the ball into no man’s land.
But it was Atletico who drew first blood in the 27th minute when a delightful cross from the right was met with the head by Mohanraj Nallapan at the far post. The left full back crept in behind Peter Ramage to slot in between the legs of an ill-fated Stephen Bywater.
Kerala Blasters were forced into making a switch on 36 minutes as Sanchez Watt was unable to continue and he was replaced by Antonio German who wasted little time to get into the thick of the action. He was fed in by fellow countryman Dagnall but the he could only send it flashing across the face of goal.
The Blasters were awarded a penalty with five minutes left to play in the first half when Denzil Franco brought down an onrushing Josu Prieto with a reckless challenge. Substitute Antonio German stepped up to for the spot-kick sending Atletico keeper, Amrinder the wrong way with a well taken penalty.
The goal brought to life the several thousands at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium that was earlier stunned into silence by the reigning champions. After an eventful first 45 minutes,the sides went into the break evenly matched, with scoreline level at 1-1.
Half-time: Keraa Blasters 1-1 Atletico de Kolkata
Second Half: Arata Izumi seals all three points for Atletico de Kolkata
At the break Antonio Habas introduced central midfielder Jewel Raja in place of the ineffective Mohammed Rafique with the intention of restoring some discipline in the midfield. Bywater had to be alert to deal with an awkward back pass from Ishfaq Ahmed just minutes into the second half.
A corner for Atletico at the Sachin Tendulkar Pavilion end saw Ofentse Nato head straight at Bywater who was called into action for an umpteenth time in the game. Antonio German came close to scoring his second after he pulled the trigger, following a solo run through the flanks forcing a save off Arminder.
The Blasters were mounting pressure on the red and white stripes when Dagnall went close with his low shot that arrowed wide. It was all yellow at the hour mark when Mohammed Rafi went plummeting down in the box appealing for a penalty, but referee for the night, Tan Hai, was having none of it.
Now pushing for a winner, Portuguese attacking midfielder Joao Coimbra was brought in for Josu to freshen things up in the attacking third. He was brought down minutes later by the Atletico goal scorer Mohanraj who made his way straight into the referee’s book with a caution.
Clearly not satisfied with his team’s attack, Habas brought on winger Valdo in place of defender Denzil Franco. On the 78th minute Mehtab whipped a free-kick into the danger zone and was hurriedly dealt with by Atletico’s keeper Arminder. Kerala’s ex-employee Iain Hume nearly got on the scoresheet with a sublime volley, but the effort came off the upright.
Atletico then went ahead completely against the run of play when substitute midfielder Arata Izumi’s seemingly wayward ball in from the left somehow made its way into the goal in bizarre fashion. The goal was the Japanese born Indian midfielder’s third this season.
But their slender lead was barely intact as Kerala drew level a minute later through Antonio German again. The 23-year old reacted first to a loose ball with a spectacular strike from outside the six-yard box.
But Atletico weren’t finished as yet as Arata Izumi bagged himself a second right at the death. Atletico’s number-21 had clearly saved his best for the last, when he was unmarked in box and coolly swept in the winner for the Kolkata outfit. The Blasters eventually went down 3-2, mightily narrowing their chances of a top 4 finish.