Football fans at Kolkata and Pune had a whale of a time watching quality football on a blockbuster Sunday. In the first match at Salt Lake stadium, Atletico de Kolkata played with a depleted side and drew with Kerala Basters. In the other match in Pune, the home team recorded its first ISL victory against Goa FC. The two games produced 4 goals but there was just one clear result. Pune City FC defeated FC Goa 2-0, whereas despite playing a better game, ATK had to remain content with a 1-1 draw against Kerala Blasters.
ATK didn’t have their suspended star forward Fikru against KB but even then the quality of their game didn’t suffer so much. Playing their fifth ISL game, ATK began attacking straightaway and kept the ball in KB’s half in opening minutes. Kerala also made some forays in ATK goal area but the Kolkata side stole counter-attacking opportunities on several occasions. In the 22nd minute, a fine team effort by Jofre Mateu and Borja Fernandez created an excellent chance as the ball was unselfishly passed on to Baljit Sahni, whose superbly shot angular right-footer found the target. The early lead rejuvenated ATK, who came perilously close to doubling their lead immediately afterwards. Jofre Mateu collected a long ball on the left flank and sent a lovely cross to Arnal Llibert but Llibert’s strike from near the six-yard box was nicely blocked by KB’s defender Cedric Hengbart. Just when, ATK appeared to dominate, KB came up with an equalizer in the 41st minute. It was like a goal coming out of nowhere, with KB’s star player Iain Hume capitalizing on his possession to finish with a great goal. ATK’s goalkeeper Subhasish Roy Chowdhury had come out too far ahead from his position.
The equalizer brought a rough edge to ATK’s game in the second half. Kingshuk Debnath deserved a red card for the way he jabbed Stephen Pearson but the referee failed to notice it. A little later, Baljit and substitute Rakesh Masih were also cautioned. ATK’s suspension and injury blues reflected in not just their starting line-up but the constitution of the official bench as well. Assistant coach Angel Diaz was deputizing for marquee manager Antonio Habas, who is out on a four-match suspension. Similarly, goalkeeping coach Predipkumar Bakhtawer is also serving one match suspension. Fikru is out for two matches while Denzil Franco and marquee player Luis Garcia are nursing injuries. Therefore, ATK had to play with just one striker Arnal. KB depended too much on their Canadian recruit Iain Hume but there was little support for him from others. ATK did their utmost to restore the lead with Baljit Sahni having a busy time all through but luck deserted him. One of Baljit’s stunners in closing stages met with the crossbar after the goalkeeper had missed it. Despite the draw, ATK kept their top standing intact with 11 points from 5 games.
In the other match, Pune produced their best game at home after the 5-0 drubbing by Mumbai FC, thanks largely to tactical changes by coach Franco Colomba. They picked up their first ISL victory by beating the luckless FC Goa 2-0 in front of home supporters at Chhatrapati Sports Complex. Both teams were yet to register their first win and the game couldn’t come alive in the first half as neither side could hold on to the ball for long. In the 14th minute, Pune’s Kostas Katsouranis was yellow-carded for a rough tackle on Gabriel Fernandes, who was stretchered out and replaced with Romeo Fernandes. In the first 20 minutes, Pune took the attack in Goa’s half and first goal for them came from an error by a Goan defender. Pune had secured a corner in the 41st minute and as the flag-kick came in, a defender headed the ball in the path of Daniele Magliocchetti, who put it back into play at goal mouth. Pune’s Greek recruit Kostas Katsouranis allowed the ball to bounce once and then unleashed an unstoppable shot that struck the net. The teams went off the ground with the halftime score of 1-0 in favor of the hosts.
After the break, Goa were intent on finding an early equalizer but all their attempts went off the target. Brazilian Andre Santos was the best Goa player on Sunday but without luck. On two occasions, Santos nearly found the target but both attempts ricocheted off the woodwork. Pune’s lead became 2-0 from another tentative play from Goa defenders. With about 10 minutes left for finish, a long ball was chased by Pune’s marquee player Trezeguet. But Goa’s Gregory Arnolin got it first and attempted a pass back to his goalkeeper. The pass didn’t have the required power and Trezeguet raced fast and fired a shot into the goal. The second goal against Goa showed their unprofessional streak.
With just three goals scored in four games, Goa definitely doesn’t look like a side, coached by Zico. Moreover, they haven’t won a single match so far despite so many international players in their fold. But that is yet to get translated into victories.