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ISL 2019-20: Kerala Blasters fend off ATK FC's challenge, keep playoff hopes alive

ISL 2019-20: Kerala Blasters fend off ATK FCs challenge, keep playoff hopes alive

Prachyaprachetah Sarkar

Published: 13 Jan 2020 6:34 AM GMT

Kerala Blasters FC continued to be a hurdle tough to overcome for two times Indian Super League (ISL) champion ATK as the later gained the third loss of the season. The game turned too harsh for the flying tigers as they failed to score a single goal against the Kerala side.

It was a clumsy game of football all through the ninety minutes of which Eelco Schattorie's side scored the only goal as they won the third game of the season with two of it coming against ATK. Thus, Schattorie kept his word of stopping ATK's winning run.

The first half turned out to be a harsh one as both the teams spent most of the time measuring each other. Though the hosts came out with a lot of good chances but failed to earn a goal out of the over defensive Kerala Blasters FC. The visitors seemed to be in a motif to play as much defensively as possible. The Blasters continued to increase numbers in the defensive third as ATK continued to bolster their attack.

Also read: ISL 2019 EXCLUSIVE: ‘Went against parents and chose football,’ says ATK youngster Sumit Rathi

Soosairaj came up with his tricks down the flank but was unable to find anyone inside the box with his deliveries. Roy Krishna made some solo runs in the early quarter but the Kerala defence stood strong to deal with the situation. The likes of Drobarov and Hakku continuously kept an eye on the Fijian striker and made things harder for him with each passing minute.

Roy Krishna
Roy Krishna was stopped by the Kerala defenders time and again (Photo: ISL)

Kerala Blasters FC created few chances from the left flank with former Dempo SC left-back Jessel Carneiro having a good game. However, their forwards Messi Bouli and Bartholomew Ogbeche failed to penetrate past the ATK defence. With the half time break fast approaching, ATK tried to stretch their opposition, in search of the opening goal, and forced Kerala into conceding numerous set pieces. Just before the break the home side earned three consecutive corners but failed to make the most of them.

In the 42nd minuted Roy Krishna was brought down by Halicharan just near the edge of the box but Javi Hernandez's effort from the resulting freekick went inches wide. The absence of David Williams seemed to cost Habas a lot as the flying tigers lacked a man upfront to head in the ball to the back of the net. Balwant was brought in to the role but he failed to provide a perfect rapport with the pace and momentum that ATK has been fairly acclaimed of.

Kerala Blasters FC came out stronger in the second half as they successfully neutralized the host's key players. It was Krishna who solely took the burden and continued to create chances but the Blasters continued to turn things unfavourable for him as he was rightly closed down and squeezed by the opposition defenders leaving not a bit of space to turn with the ball.

In the early minutes of the fourth quarter, Habas made a double substitution as he brought in Jayesh Rane and Joby Justin in place of defender Agus Garcia and Balwant Singh respectively. Removing Agus from the defence proved to be decisive as Kerala Blasters soon broke the deadlock in the 70th minute.

It was Halicharan Narzary who scored from a blinder with his weak feet. The medio made a solo run leaving ATK defenders aside before finishing it off calmly. Mario Arques came out with a floating ball for Gning in the 85th minute but the latter was unlucky and could not find the net.

The match finished on a poor note with both the teams manhandling with each other. With this loss, ATK have to once again scrutinise and strategise. With an ACL spot up for grabs, they have to ensure ways of getting back to the top of the table.

Kerala Blasters, on their part, can still hope to qualify for the playoffs, after climbing to sixth in the table. They are still four points away, but if a couple of results go in their favour, they could make it to the top 4.

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