ATK back to winning ways

Arata Izumi and Javi Lara found the target once in each half for the hosts while Chris Dagnall pulled one back late in the second session for the visitors.

Atletico de Kolkata top the table with 7 points from three games.   -  PTI

Defending champions Atletico de Kolkata returned to winning ways downing the last year’s final opponents Kerala Blasters FC 2-1 in a Hero ISL season-II match here at the Salt Lake Stadium on Tuesday. Arata Izumi and Javi Lara found the target once in each half for the hosts while Chris Dagnall pulled one back late in the second session for the visitors.

The win took ATK on top of the points table with seven points from three matches while Blasters, which were in the second spot before the match with four points, suffered their first loss of the tournament.

Looking to shake off the absence of a host of regulars, Atletico de Kolkata took the attack route right from the start. The Spanish midfielder Javi Lara rattled the Blasters crosspiece with a pile-driver from around 25 yards in the fifth minute to signal the intent of the home side. Keeping up the momentum ATK found the lead in the sixth minute with Canadian striker Iain Hume getting in on the act. Hume, playing as the lone striker in absence of the injured Portuguese World Cupper Helder Postiga, chested down a long floater from the middle and essayed a fine shot on the turn but he found the Blasters custodian Stephen Baywater blocking the shot. Izumi Arata ran in from the other side of the box and completed the modality of slotting the rebound home.

The hosts spent the rest of the first half consolidating their defence as the Blasters sought to regroup after conceding the goal. With the home team depending heavily on the seasoned Spaniard Josemi in defence, it was essential to bolster the backline which they did by pushing in more reinforcements at the back. The visitors could well have found the break in the 38th minute when Mehtab Hossain fired a fine volley from around 30 years. Juan Calatayud, manning the ATK goal, pulled the first of his many good saves as he lunged forward to block the effort of the Blasters centre half.

The next opportunity came in the 41st minute when Rahul Bheke made the most of a miss-pass from the ATK left-back N. Mohanraj and set up a fine cross across the ATK goalmouth. Dagnall timed his effort on the Bheke pass a trifle too late seeing ball sail across the ATK goalmouth untouched.

The second session did not alter the situation for Blasters, who continued to search for the right move that would unsettle the host’s defence. The two Englishmen – Dagnall and Sanchez Watt – could not find the incisive form and remained largely ineffective in the striking zone.

The hosts doubled their lead in the 53rd minute capping a fine move that saw Hume setting up Lara inside the Blasters box with a nice lay-off. The Spaniard showed fine ball-control to get clear of the onrushing opposition captain Peter Ramage and found the net off a powerful right-footer.

The Blasters regained their touch in the final 10 minutes of the action but that not help their cause. Dagnall pulled one back off a cross from Ramage in the 80th minute to revive the hopes of the visitor. Both Watt and Dagnall came very close to scoring the equaliser in the late stages but Calatayud stood firm under the ATK bar to deny their efforts and ensure the full three points for the host. Mehtab Hossain collected his second booking in the 89th minute and sent off to further dampen the spirit of the visitors.