ATK finally manage a draw

Tom Thorpe saves the day for defending champions vs Kerala Blasters

By A Staff Reporter in Calcutta
  • Published 9.02.18
  •  
Action during ATK's ISL IV match against Kerala Blastersin the city on Thursday. A Telegraph picture

Calcutta: ATK finally managed to buck the trend. Well they haven't won, but at least managed to draw on Thursday.

After suffering four defeats in as many matches, the defending champions earned a point holding Kerala Blasters 2-2 in an ISL IV match at the Salt Lake Stadium.

It's not that ATK did something special to get a point, they had luck on their side. In the earlier matches, they failed to convert chances, and on Thursday too they missed. In between they scored two.

By ATK interim coach Ashley Westwood's admission, they are as good as out of contention for a last-four berth.

"Even if we win our remaining matches, we will end up wit 25 points. I believe that will not be good enough. We have to play for pride now," Westwood was candid.

It was Blasters who took the lead in the 34th minute. Courage Pekuson released Prasanth Karuthadathkuni on the right flank.

Prakash's delivery into the box found Iceland player Gudjon Baldvinnson whose header took a slight deflection off Jordi Figuras before hitting the net.

ATK drew level four minutes later. This time also another deflection did the trick. Ryan Taylor attempted a long-ranger that took a wicked deflection off Lalruatthara before rolling past a wrong-footed Subashish Roy Choudhury into the net.

Ten minutes after the change of ends, Dimitar Berbatov, who played for the first time after five matches, got his first goal of ISL IV. And it was a beauty.

Jackichand Singh's free-kick was flicked on by Nemanja Lakic-Pesic and fell to Berbatov on the edge of the box.

The Bulgarian hit a neat volley into the bottom right corner giving rival goalkeeper Soram Porei hardly any chance.

In the 74th minute came the equaliser. Taylor's corner was initially cleared but he got the ball back on the right flank and sent a delicious cross into the centre.

Thorpe was poorly marked and Subasish was rooted to the spot. The defender gleefully glanced his header into the net.

Kerala Blasters went in with an attacking 3-4-3 formation, but attack was hardly something they did. Scraping through the opening 20 minutes, the visitors could hardly take any advantage over the perfunctory hosts.

Though, it was ATK that had the first sniff at goal. Dimitar Berbatov, playing his first after a 3-1 win over Delhi Dynamos on 10 January, was guilty of losing the ball to Darren Caldeira.

A through ball into the box and Martin Paterson's finishing instincts left a lot to be desired.

Soram Poirei, getting a start after West decided to regular goalkeeper Debjit Majumder because of poor form, did well to pull off a blinding save just after the restart.

The Manipur-born showed great composure in catching the ball from handshaking distance with Baldvinsson's header almost seeming to go past the former Mohun Bagan man.

In the third minute of injury-time, Thorpe came back strongly to make a goal-line clearance.

ATK remain eighth, with 13 points in their kitty from 14 games. Kerala Blasters now have 21 points from 15 games, a point behind Jamshedpur FC, who occupied the fourth spot on the table.

A win on Thursday would have taken them to the top-four.

Blasters travel to Guwahati next to face Northeast United FC after a nine day-break while ATK are at home once again, with Mumbai City visiting on February 18 as they hope to break their five-match winless run.

For those who love statistics, ATK got into double figures in the goals-for category. That is one more than Sunil Chetri scored in this ISL.

Of these 10 goals, seven came in the second half. And on Thursday they got two goals for the first time in this ISL.

Quite a feat. Isn't it?

INDIAN SUPER LEAGUE

ATK     2
KERALA BLASTERS     2