ISL debutants ATK Mohun Bagan got off to the best possible start in the first match of the new 2020-21 Indian Super League season against Kerala Blasters with a 1-0 victory at the GMC Bambolim Stadium in Goa. Both the sides had a predictably scrappy start to the season due to the long gap after the 2019-20 campaign.
Kerala dominate the possession in the first half
Kerala started without the services of Rahul KP and Nishu Kumar (on the bench) due to injuries as Kibu Vicuna gave chances to Prasanth Karuthadathkununi and Ritwik Das in their absence. Meanwhile, ATK Mohun Bagan had to have David Williams on the bench due to a foot injury.
The new entrants got the first real chance in just the 4th minute as Roy Krishna missed a glorious chance from a corner taken by Javi Hernandez. Prasanth failed to mark Krishna in the box but the Fijian found thin air with his attempted left-footed strike.
That miss seemed miniscule when Michael Soosairaj had to be subbed off in the 14th minute after a clash with Prasanth. A few minutes later, Bakary Kone's poor square ball gave a big chance to Krishna but Costa Nhamoinesu came with the perfect block to save Kerala. After that, the game quietened down as Kerala maintained the possession without causing much trouble. The Mariners' next chance came in the 27th minute when Carl McHugh overcooked his header.
ATK Mohun Bagan got another chance seven minutes later when Sergio Cidoncha's poor pass saw Pronay Halder play Krishna through on goal. But the striker powered his shot over the crossbar.
A while later, Kerala got a big chance but Ritwik Das failed to connect when a Nongdamba Naorem cross made its way through to the winger. After this, there was a lull in the game once again as both the sides headed to the tunnel with a nil-nil scoreline.
Kerala miss chances as Roy Krishna comes up with a winning strike
Immediately after the re-start, Sahal Abdul Samad found a glorious chance to put Kerala ahead but he skewed his shot quite badly as Jessel Carneiro's fine cross was wasted.
The game got scrappy once again with Kerala failing to find the final killer pass on a number of occasions. The pace picked up after each side made a substitution with Seityasen Singh causing some trouble to Arindam Bhattacharya in the 67th minute. Two minutes later though, Roy Krishna put ATK Mohun Bagan ahead with a superb finish past Albino Gomes. The chance came to Krishna after a Manvir Singh cross had Sergio Cidoncha and Vicente Gomez clashing with each other.
Kerala's manager Kibu Vicuna responded to the goal by bringing on Jordan Murray and Lalthathanga Khawlhring with 15 minutes to go in regular time. However, ATK Mohun Bagan seemed energized after the second cooling break as Edu Garcia struck a fierce shot across the goal. Kerala's poster boy Sahal did get a half-chance soon enough but he struck his volley way over the goalpost.
Vicuna made some more aggressive changes by bringing on Facundo Pereyra and Lalruatthara to force the equalizer but ATK Mohun Bagan shut them down superbly. The lively Khawlhring flung a powerful shot from just outside the box but it was deflected away for a corner. The trailing side couldn't make much of the set-piece opportunity too as Carl McHugh rose high to clear it. The referee Crystal John soon blew the full-time whistle as ATK Mohun Bagan emerged victorious in the season opener.
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The Fijian goal-machine Roy Krishna did look rusty through the majority of the match as he missed a couple of chances especially in the first half. However, when the chance came his way, he converted his only shot on target into a goal to give ATKMB the decisive lead. He was then subbed off with eight minutes to go as Antonio Lopez Habas did not want to overburden him with a packed schedule coming up.