ISL 2018: The Kerala team finally beats ATK after 2014
Two time runner-up Kerala Blasters gave a flying start to its campaign in the Indian Super League-5 when it downed two-time champion ATK by two late second-half goals at the Salt Lake Stadium here on Saturday.
Solvenian striker Matej Poplatnik, who was later named man-of-the-match, found the lead in the 77th minute before Slavisa Stojanovic doubled it in the 86th. This ended a wait of four seasons for the Blasters, whose only win against ATK came in November 2014.
Blasters came in to the match as a more composed side as it started exploring the chinks in ATK’s defence quite early. Halicharan Narzary breezed up the left in the fourth minute to set up an onrushing Poplatnik in the centre of the box. The Slovenian forward replied with a sharp header but it went wide off the far post.
This set the tone for the next 20 odd minutes where the Blasters made three forays in to the box. The visitors continued with the momentum and earned the first corner in the 13th minute. Taking the flag-kick Poplatnik set the ball up nicely for Nemanja Pesic, the towering Blasters defender who was moving in.
Pesic jumped above the crowd for a fine header which beat ATK goalkeeper Arindam Bhattacharya but defender Lalhmangaihsanga Ralte moved in time and nodded the ball out.
Placing his confidence on the Indians in his roster, Blasters’ English coach David James started with seven of them.
Sahal Abdul Samad responded to that backing when he went up from his central midfield position an sent in a powerful shot in the 33rd minute which Bhattacharya saved with a desperate dive.
ATK tried to shake off the pressure by launching some counter-offensives, one of which fetched it a corner in the 39th. Jayesh Rane had a clear look at the goal when Noussair Maimouni’s flag-kick located him unmarked but the Indian midfielder sent his effort wide of an open goal.
The win hands Kerala three points and sends Kolkata at the bottom of the table. Coppell, who wanted to make Salt Lake Kolkata’s castle, still has time — it is, after all, the first game — but would need to shake things up if he wants to end up on the winning side the next time. Although he did miss the services of Kalu Uche, his team would have needed much more than the Nigerian’s scoring talent.
Blasters continued to pound the ATK defence after the break but found the opening late in the 77th minute when a deflected attempt from Stojanovic was nodded home by Poplatnik. Rattled by the setback ATK continued to make more errors at the back as Stojanovic converted a floater from Narzary.
The result: ATK 0 lost to Kerala Blasters (Matej Poplatnik 77, Slavisa Stojanovic 86).