After a great initial promise, Atletico de Kolkata lost their rhythm and played wretched football in the later stages of the Hero Indian Super League. In a month’s time they also lost the tag of the table toppers to Chennaiyin FC. Their cup of woes looked full in the last home game against FC Goa on December 10 as the visitors pushed them on the back foot and scored early to take a 1-0 lead in the first session, when Goa’s Portuguese recruit Edgar Marcelino scored an opportunistic goal. Many analysts and pseudo-experts would have pulled out their calculators to determine who; out of ATK, Delhi Dynamos and Mumbai City FC had the best chance to go into the semifinals. But with ATK finding a late equalizer from a penalty award, which Fikru Teferra duly converted, ATK drew level. That 1-1 result was enough for ATK to take their points’ tally to 19 and finish third in the league standings. ATK’s entry also made the upcoming match between NorthEast United and Mumbai inconsequential. In the double-leg semifinals, ATK will take on Goa once again. After the first match at Salt Lake stadium on December 14, the teams will meet again at Goa on December 17. The second semifinal legs will be played between table toppers Chennaiyin FC and fourth-placed Kerala Blasters FC. The first leg is scheduled for December 13 at Kochi and the next on December 16 in Chennai.
The first half began with Kolkata launching attacks on Goa goal for the first 10-15 minutes, led by Fikru Teferra. But Goa defenders held their nerves in denying ATK. With nothing to lose, Goa’s Brazilian coach Zico rested several key players but ATK could not take the advantage of the depleted side except in the initial stages. Though Fikru got through on a few occasions, he failed to control a number of passes inside the box. Other than Fikru, midfielders; Baljit Sahni, Jakub Podany and Mohammad Rafi also disappointed in finding the target. By 15th minute, Goa found their rhythm with short and accurate passes and began playing in the ATK half. Robert Pires was particularly impressive as a playmaker and he created several build ups. FC Goa’s hard work paid dividends in the 27th minute, when Portuguese Edgar Marcelino found the net. Clifford had run down on the left flank and managed to send the ball to Pires. The Frenchman found Goa’s Nigerian recruit Ranti Martins, who only made a tentative long shot. In a sense, it turned out to be a gifted goal because when, Ranti’s shot was blocked by Borja Fernandez, the ATK midfielder failed to control the rebound that fell in the path of Marcelino. The Portuguese used the rebound to telling effect as his powerful smash went past ATK goalkeeper Edel Bete. Two minutes later, Goa had another chance, when Miguel Herlein sent a fine cross from the right but Bete reached there first. With moments left for halftime Kolkata had an equalizing opportunity but Mohammed Rafi’s close-range header was nicely stopped by Goa goalkeeper.
The second half had a slow start with two near chances for ATK. Jakub Podany failed to connect and captain Garcia, who had come in the second half missed on his chances. In the 66th minute, Fikru took a powerful shot from the right edge of the box but the ball rebounded in after crashing against the near post. Fikru ran for it and he fell down in the tackle with the Goa defender Bruno Pinheiro. Referee Baldomero Toledo awarded penalty thinking that Pinheiro had purposely brought down Fikru, though TV replays showed no contact from Pinheiro from behind. While Pinheiro got the marching orders following a red card, Fikru sent the ball into the goal from the spot to bring the stadium alive. Bolstered by the goal, ATK began attacking the Goa goal with renewed vigor but could get the lead. Their best chance came in the 90th minute, when Jakub Podany sent the ball to Fikru from left but the Ethiopian’s strike was nicely saved by the goalkeeper.
With the 1-1 draw at Kolkata, the second match at Guwahati between NEUGC and Mumbai City FC lost its importance. Both NorthEast and Mumbai played a matching game in first half and had their moments of ball possession. Koke created a close chance with his 2nd minute free-kick but Joan Capdevila failed to direct his header past Mumbai keeper Subrata Paul. Next chance came Mumbai’s way, when Sushil Singh stole the ball from Kondwani Mtonga but his shot at the goal lacked conviction. NEUFC went into the lead from the penalty award after Tomas Josl was brought down by Deepak Mandal in the box. Koke’s shot from the spot wrong-footed Subrata Paul and the break came at 1-0 in favor of NorthEast.
At half time, Mumbai brought Andre Pereira and Lalrin Fela in places of Subrata Paul and Deepak Mandal but couldn’t get going as NEUFC occupied the Mumbai half for most part. Tomas Josl missed another goal-scoring opportunity, when he had only the goalkeeper to beat. Later, Josl sent an aerial ball to Sambou but the Senegalese couldn’t head past the keeper. With 20 minutes left, Mumbai succeeded in finding the equalizer, when Tiago Ribeiro played a short corner to Stohanzl, whose cross was met by Sushil in the box. This time Sushil headed brilliantly past the NEUFC goalkeeper. In the dying moments, both teams looked for the winner but couldn’t find the targets. With the match ending in a 1-1 draw, Mumbai finished the ISL 2014 in seventh place while NEUFC occupied the bottom.
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