ATK 0-1 Kerala Blasters: 3 Reasons why the visitors won | ISL 2019-20
Kerala Blasters scraped past ATK 1-0 in Kolkata as the hosts missed an opportunity to nestle themselves at the perch of the table. The visitors, meanwhile, collected their 2nd consecutive victory in the ISL.
ATK began the game brightly but they were quickly pegged back by the Blasters, who started dominating possession. However, clear-cut chances were at a premium in the first half as both teams largely fed off scraps.
The hosts tried to turn the screw after the restart but missed a couple of opportunities to assert their dominance in the game, meaning that the away side grew exponentially and eventually, managed to knock ATK out with the sucker punch.
In the 70th minute, Halicharan Narzary picked up a loose ball on the edge of the box, cut inside his marker and unleashed a rasping drive past Arindam Bhattacharya.
Tempers flared thereafter as several players crunched into tackles and those on the touch-line also decided to get involved. Ultimately, Antonio Habas was issued his marching orders as the game threatened to spill over. Yet, nothing of that sort materialized, meaning that both sides ended with their full complement of players.
Here is a look at the three reasons that enabled Kerala to win the encounter.
#3 Kerala frustrate ATK throughout the game
Coming into the encounter, ATK had scored 21 goals whereas Kerala had conceded 15 in 11 matches. Thus, several expected the hosts to make the net bulge at least once, especially considering the presence of Roy Krishna.
However, the visitors managed to keep the hosts at bay, meaning that they frustrated ATK throughout the encounter. For large swathes of the game, Kerala were content to defend the width of the box and defended deep. In the process, ATK were forced to look for other avenues and launch the ball into the penalty area.
Before Sunday, one of the home side’s biggest strengths had been its tendency to score directly from through-balls, a fact highlighted by them scoring 7 of their goals that way. Yet, with the Blasters not deploying a high defensive line, ATK were denied the space in behind the defence.
Additionally, the away side was quite tenacious in its tackles and also didn’t allow a lot of room in midfield, thereby forcing ATK to shunt the play wide and not operate through the middle often. And, consequently, the aforementioned aspects enabled Kerala to keep the hosts’ effervescent attack quiet and script an unlikely away victory.
#2 ATK left to rue their missed opportunities
Despite Kerala enjoying the lion’s share of possession in the opening exchanges, ATK still posed a potent threat on the break in the first half.
Subsequently, they fashioned a few chances for themselves in transition situations as Krishna often isolated himself with the Kerala rear-guard. Unfortunately though, ATK failed to capitalize on those openings as they surprisingly fired a blank at the Salt Lake Stadium.
In the first half, Krishna was guilty of nodding wide after TP Rehenesh’s error in judgement from a corner off the left side. Additionally, Mandi also rattled his free-kick wide of the post, when accorded a shooting chance from the edge of the box.
After the break, Krishna turned superbly inside the box but fired his shot straight at the keeper whereas there were numerous other instances where ATK just couldn’t conjure an end product, despite weaving pretty patterns.
Thus, the hosts, at the end of the encounter, were left ruing what could’ve been, especially after Narzary scored from an improbable distance. And, though they’ve not had problems making the net bulge so far in 2019-20, that particular trait came to the fore on Sunday.
#1 Narzary knocks ATK out with the sucker punch
A few days ago, Kerala Blasters blitzed past Hyderabad FC as most of their offensive components clicked efficiently against the league’s bottom-placed outfit. Thus, many expected them to continue in the same vein and produce another display of free-flowing football against ATK.
And, though they eventually walked away with three points, they weren’t able to hit the heights they scaled against Hyderabdad.
At times, Kerala’s build-up play looked slightly sluggish and their deliveries from dead-ball situations also left an awful lot to be desired. For a chunk of the game, Bartholomew Ogbeche and Messi Bouli cut isolated figures up front as the rest of the midfielders were forced to drop back and defend against the hosts’ attacking wing-backs.
Yet, just as ATK were beginning to assert their dominance on the game, Narzary popped up with a moment of brilliance, 20 minutes from time. After another long ball had been held up by a combination of Messi and Ogbeche, the Indian strode onto the pass outside the box.
He then hoodwinked his marker and cut inside, meaning that he carved out a shooting opportunity on the edge of the penalty area. Thereafter, despite the ball being on his weaker foot, he mustered the requisite power and swerve to rifle the ball beyond the goalkeeper.
Though Kerala ended with 55% of the ball, there were still occasions wherein they seemed the side holding onto a point. However, Narzary ensured that the visitors had something more to cling onto for the final quarter of the game. And, eventually, they saw off the game to propel them upwards in the ISL table.