ISL: Kerala Blasters holds ATK to goalless draw

Kerala Blasters held defending champion Atletico de Kolkata to a goalless draw in the first Indian Super League match of the season, which saw the home side's star striker Dimitar Berbatov fail to shine.

Action from the ISL match between Kerala Blasters and Atletico de Kolkata at Kochi on Friday.   -  H. Vibhu

The much-hyped opening clash of the Hero ISL turned out to be a damp squib as Kerala Blasters and Atletico de Kolkata played out a goalless draw at the Jawaharlal Nehru stadium here on Friday.

A rusty Kerala Blasters was lucky to earn a point from the contest as ATK was clearly the superior side. There were hardly any thrills from the Kerala side in the mundane contest and the fans vented their frustration by booing the side in the second half.

MATCH CENTRE

Atletico de Kolkata enjoyed more possession, but was unlucky as an effort from Jose Branco in the 69th minute struck the far post, with the Blasters goalkeeper Pual Rachubka completely beaten.

Blasters' best chance came in the opening minute of the extra time in the second half when Berbatov’s header off a corner was smartly saved by Debjit Majumder.

Kerala Blasters coach Rene Meulensteen’s pre-match promise of playing attacking football to please the supporters fell flat as his side came up with a lackluster show. Despite adopting an attacking format, Blasters lacked attacking instinct in the first half and played second fiddle to its rival which wrested control in the midfield quite early. 

Apart from a long ranger from Milan Singh which missed the mark narrowly in the fourth minute, Blasters failed to create any worthwhile chance in the first half. Star striker Dimitar Berbatov remained anonymous on the field largely as his midfielders failed to feed him. Milan Singh and Ghanian Courgae Pekuson showed flashes of brilliance but a combined effort from the team was missing.

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On the other hand, Atletico struck rhythm fairly early. There were nice buildups through both flanks from the visitor to put pressure on Blasters half. Keegan Pereira roamed freely into the box from the right to whip in crosses while Jose Branco made his presence felt with clever distribution.

The Blaster’s goal came under pressure in the 13th minute when Branco send Finnish striker Njazi Kuqi clear but the shot was baulked by Paul Stephen Rachbuka. ATK managed to sneak the ball into the rival box on on a couple of occasions but Rachbuka stood firm to register a clean sheet.

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