The Kerala Blasters played out a stalemate against ATK in the first match of ISL 2017, with the latter expressing themselves better with a free-flowing style of football. With a superior midfield, ATK were calling the shots in the game and created many more chances than the home side, which unfortunately did not materialize.
While ATK will need to improve their finishing, they can relax knowing that with the comebacks of Robbie Keane and Carl Baker, it can be addressed. Overall, the quality football and possession game played by ATK does resemble the style which their Technical Director Ashley Westwood advocates.
What went wrong for the Kerala Blasters?
One striking point that stood out was the fact that the midfield players couldn't make their impact on the game. The 4-2-3-1 formation quite didn't work out well with striker Dimitar Berbatov, who needs the ball coming into him to produce his magic, not receiving much help. The quality in midfield with Courage Pekuson, Milan Singh and Arata Izumi definitely came up short against ATK, who had the likes of Eugenson Lyngdoh and Conor Thomas.
Kerala will need to work on their midfield setup, possibly by bringing in the likes of Siam Hanghal as the defensive midfielder and Jackichand Singh as an attacking midfield option. Though the Blasters coach rued the lack of incisiveness in the final third as the reason for the goalless draw, a better orchestration and possession game in the midfield is needed to create more opportunities for the famed attacking lineup of the Kerala Blasters to be effective.
Another aspect that stood out was the lack of quality passes that the Kerala Blasters were found to be playing. It was disheartening to see as a fan whenever Kerala won the ball back after much hard work, they seemed to be giving it away with substandard passes.Right back Rino Anto had been giving away chances with wayward crosses into the galleries on more than one occasion. Had those been delivered with some quality, who knows what could have happened!
The central defence looked solid with both Sandesh Jhingan and Nemanja Lakic-Pesic holding good ground. However, the Kerala right back seemed to be allowing more space for the opposition to operate in, which indeed created reasonably close chances for ATK.
The Kerala management will hopefully look into the shortcomings and make amends before the Jamshedpur FC match next week, which will see former Blasters manager Steve Coppell return to Kochi.
As the Hero of the Match Nemanja Lakic-Pesic rightly pointed out, Kerala need to be calmer with the ball, have more possession in the game and create more goalscoring opportunities to see the Berbatov magic which all of India is waiting for.
The Kerala Blasters will become better with each game they play -- a belief every fan has. Here's hoping they build on their performance against ATK and come out rejuvenated against Jamshedpur.