Atletico make a winning start to their title defence

It was a classic game with the second half witnessing more goals and action than the first. Chennaiyin FC was the better team in the first half, winning their first corner within the first couple of minutes. The first half was a midfield battle between the two teams. Chennaiyin’s Elano dictated the terms for the home side while ATK’s Borja Fernandez played the perfect counter.

Atletico de Kolkata players rejoice after their win against Chennaiyin FC in the first match of ISL-2.   -  PTI

Elano Blumer Of Chennaiyn FC celebrating after scoring a penalty   -  R. Ragu

The opening match of the Indian Super League Season-2 lived up to its billing, as defending champions Atletico de Kolkata beat the home team, Chennaiyin FC, 3-2 at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium here on Saturday.

It was a classic game of two halves, with the second half witnessing more goals and action than the first. Chennaiyin FC were the better team in the first half, winning their first corner within the first couple of minutes. Elano swung the ball in off the corner and Jeje out-jumped everyone in the box, but his header was off target.

Fikru, playing against his former team, looked dangerous. In the 11th minute, the Ethiopian was freed on the left and he had just one defender to beat. He bobbed and weaved his way into the box and also managed to make space for a shot. But he whipped the ball towards the far post where there was nobody in a blue shirt to head in.

The early bright start by the home side proved to be of no avail as ATK’s patience paid off. Their marquee signing Helder Postiga had the easiest of jobs as he tapped into an empty net in the 13th minute to put Kolkata ahead. A cross from the right from Borja forced an error as Chennaiyin’s goalkeeper Apoula jumped to catch the cross but fluffed it, with the ball dropping tantalisingly in front of Postiga, with the whole net exposed. The Portuguese forward did the rest.

Fikru looked lively for Chennaiyin FC, but his finishing left a lot to be desired. He missed two key chances. The first, in the 16th minute, when the Ethiopian was once again freed on the left, but his shot, off his weak foot, was way off target. Next, Fikru had another golden opportunity in the 21st minute when he was one-on-one in the box with the goalkeeper, but his shot was too weak to trouble Arminder Singh.

The first half was a midfield battle between the two teams. Chennaiyin’s Elano dictated the terms for the home side while ATK’s Borja Fernandez played the perfect counter.

The crowd loved it whenever Elano was on the ball, twisting and turning defenders, and leaving them in his wake.

As the first half started to wear out in terms of creativity and pace, Elano did his bit to lift the home side. In the 26th minute, the Brazilian playmaker tried his luck from outside the box, but the ball just missed the target. This sustained period of pressure finally paid off as the home side drew parity through Jeje in the 31st minute. The goal resembled ATK’s opener, with the forward latching on to a loose ball with the whole net exposed.

Elano chipped the ball into the box for Fikru, and with the goalkeeper charging to catch the ball, the striker got there first. He headed the ball straight to the 'keeper, who could only palm it into the path of Jeje, who had the simplest of tasks of putting it into the back of the net.

Apart from patches of pace and creativity, the first half lacked any real bite. Atletico picked up two yellow cards as Sahni and skipper Borja Fernandez were cautioned for rash challenges.

The second half started with the home side bringing on Mendy in place of Mailson.

Ateltico’s Lara took the attack to the Chennaiyin camp. The Spaniard caused a lot of problems on the left flank. The home side made another change in the 63rd minute as Colombian forward Mendoza came on for Fikru, who had a disappointing outing.

Atletico slowly started taking control of the game with skipper Borja Fernandez directing the attacks from the midfield. The defending champions took the lead in the 70th minute as Postiga scored his second goal following a disastrous back pass from Mendy. Atletico’s celebrations were cut short as the Portuguese seemed to have pulled his hamstring.

Valdo replaced Postiga, who was carried off on a stretcher. The forced substitution paid off as Valdo rose the highest at the far post to head in a Hume cross from the left to make it 3-1 for Atletico in the 76th minute.

Things went from bad to worse for Chennaiyin FC in the 79th minute as Mendy was penalised for a handball inside the box. However, Apoula pulled off a great save, much to the crowd’s delight, diving to his right to thwart Lara. This seemed to act as a catalyst for Chennaiyin FC, who were desperately seeking a goal.

ATK were on the backfoot and in the 89th minute Chennaiyin FC forced a handball from Anad Mondal. There was a bit of controversy as the referee took his time before pointing to the spot. Elano stepped up made it 2-3.

The third official signaled five minutes of additional time but it wasn’t enough as a nervy Ateltico de Kolkata held on.

The result:

Chennaiyin FC 2 (Jeje 31, Elano 89-penalty) lost to Atletico de Kolkata 3 (Postiga 13 & 70, Valdo 76)