ATK holds Kerala Blasters to move into play-offs

The stalemate, which was the fourth draw for ATK at home, did bring cheers to the host as it progressed to the semi-finals while becoming the only side to have reached the play-off stage in all the three editions.

CK Vineeth of Kerala Blasters FC celebrates his goal with teammates .

Atletico Kolkata warded off a spirited show of attacking football by Kerala Blasters FC before holding the latter to a 1-1 draw in an Indian Super League (ISL) match here at the Rabindra Sarobar Stadium on Tuesday.

The stalemate, which was the fourth draw for ATK at home, did bring cheers to the host as it progressed to the semi-finals while becoming the only side to have reached the play-off stage in all the three editions. With 19 points from 13 matches ATK retained the third spot ahead of the Balsters (also on 19 points from 13 matches) on head-to-head count while Delhi Dynamos, which is in the second spot with 20 points from 12 matches, was also assured of a place in the play-offs for this result.

> MATCH CENTRE

With three semifinal spots ensured – Mumbai City FC being the first team to move up - Kerala Blasters and NorthEast United FC (15 points from 12 matches) will now be fighting for the remaining play-off berth. This also meant an end of the road for defending champion Chennaiyin FC and FC Pune City, who are both on 15 points from 13 matches, while FC Goa had already crashed out of the tournament with 11 points from 13 matches.

Kerala gave a lively start to the first half finding the lead in the eighth minute with an opportunistic goal. The goal was more a gift from the ATK custodian Debjit Majumdar, who spilled a straightforward catch as the Blasters’ midfielder Mehtab Hossain essayed a floater on the goalmouth from the left flank. The first to benefit on Majumdar’s mistake was the Blasters defender Cedric Hengbert, who chipped the ball in the middle of the box for striker C.K. Vineeth to nod the ball into an open goal.

The host had found the net first in the sixth minute but the goal by Scotsman Stephen Perason was disallowed as the man assisting him with the cross from the right flank, Javi Lara, was held offside. Helder Postiga, the Portuguese World Cupper and the marquee striker of the side, could be seen taking extra load as the host went in search of the equaliser. Postiga made a nice attempt in the 17th minute but his long-ranger went wide. The equaliser happened in the 18th minute as the two forwards Postiga and Canadian Iain Hume accomplished a sequence of fine passes near the Blasters’ box before setting up Pearson clear of the Blasters’ defensive array. The Scottish midfielder had the task of placing the ball home, which he did with relative ease.

Atletico Kolkata held on to the scoreline for the rest of the action though Blasters’ made a few good efforts in the second half to regain the lead. The visitor tried to use the speed of its Haitian forward Kervens Belfort but Tiri and Arnab Mondal stood firm in the ATK box offsetting the visitor’s offensives.

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