ISL: Kerala Blasters, ATK share the spoils in 1-1 draw

Tune in for live commentary and updates from the Indian Super League clash between Kerala Blasters FC and ATK.

Kerala Blasters is currently on the eighth spot in the Indian Super League table.   -  H. Vibhu

Hello and welcome to Sportstar's live coverage of this evening's Indian Super League clash between Kerala Blasters and ATK at Kochi's Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium.

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90+3' And there goes the full-time whistle. The game looked like it was heading to a goalless draw but a goal for either team in the last few minutes saw them share the spoils in a 1-1 draw.

88' Poplatnik's header takes a deflection off Vieira and ricochets off the crossbar to put Kerala Blasters back on level terms. ATK's lead lasts for less than two minutes, GAME ON!

85' THERE'S THE GOAL! The clever Edu Garcia tricks everyone as his grounded shot sneaks beneath the wall and rolls into the back of the net. ATK leads 1-0 with less than five minutes to go.

84' OUCH! Lalruatthara goes right through Garcia with a crunching tackle. ATK now has a fine chance to score from the freekick, which is very much in Garcia's range.

80' We're down to the last 10 minutes here. Will we see a late winner?

 

73' Another fine chance for Doungel! Sahal plays a teasing cross from the right and Doungel does ever so well to leap to the ball but his header is only as close as the side-netting. He appears visibly frustrated.

70' Close! Poplatnik nods it down in Doungel's path and the latter fires a powerful volley but can't keep it on target.

* It's been an impressive few minutes for the Blasters. The home side has had four promising chances on goal, but has struggled to convert.

64' Another chance for the Blasters, another chance that is not converted. Poplatnik had only two defenders to beat and he weaves past Vieira but can't get past Ricky Lallawmawma.

62' That's a well-coordinated move from the Blasters. Some clever work around the box allows Poplatnik to have a shot but Arindam makes a fantastic save to keep the scoreline 0-0.

60' How on Earth did Stojanovic miss that? Doungel scorches into the box and chips it to an unmarked Stojanovic with the goal at his mercy. Stojanovic had all the time in the world but his poor shoot sails into the stands. Sloppy work from Stojanovic, this.

58' What a chance for ATK! Rane's lovely low cross flashes right across goal but fails to find a single forward. Hitesh was in the radar but he was too slow and couldn't get to the ball. Best chance for ATK so far.

54' Another long-range effort! Edu Garcia doesn't get the right contact on the ball and his driven shot is straight at Dheeraj Singh, who makes a regulation save.

51' Sieminlen Doungel carries the ball some 30 yards from the centre circle and, from a presentable position, goes for a placed shot. His attempt is at a comfortable height for Arindam Bhattacharya to catch the ball. That was the home team's first big opportunity of the half, with ATK dominating possession.

46' Gerson Vieira lets fly a thunderous left-footed shot from 25 yards out, but Dheeraj Singh beats it away to keep the match scoreless.

 

Second half.

45' That's the end of the opening half. Both sides had their share of chance but neither had a clear-cut scoring opportunity. The highlight of first half will be Dheeraj's outstanding save to deny Garcia, who has been the star of the game thus far.

42' Stunning save. Garcia unleashes a curling right-footed drive towards the top-corner but Blasters custodian Dheeraj Singh makes a stunning acrobatic save to deny him.

40' Outrageous! Poplatnik sees Arindam off his goalline and lets one rip from a little ahead of the centre-line. Unfortunate for him, the ball floats woefully wide of the goal.

35' That's a fine save from Arindam Bhattacharja. Poplatnik generates tremendous pace on his header off Lalruatthara's cross and Arindam dives to his left to parry it away for a corner.

33' Prashanth has been phenomenal so far. He's been whipping cross after cross and his presence on the right wing has mounted pressure on the ATK defence. He plays another pin-point cross towards Samad in the box but Jhonson deals with it effectively.

30' Promising move here from the Blasters. Seiminlen Doungel squares it for Nikola Krcmarevic on the edge of the box but the Sernian lacks composure and his strike slides wide of the goal.

28' Half-chance for ATK. Jayesh Rane crosses towards Uche in the box but the Nigerian faces a stiff challenge from Jhingan and is unable to convert.

25' Both teams have made repeated forays into the opposition box but have simply failed to find the desired finishing touch. Blasters have had three shots as compared to ATK's two, but have failed to get any on target.

* We're 20 minutes into the game and neither side has registered a shot on target yet!

20' Action on the other end! Hitesh Sharma runs down the left and produces a looping cross that floats past Uche in the box.

19' Halder makes a clumsy tackle on Poplatnik. The ball was well beyond his reach and he lunged forward but only managed to hack down the attacker. Blasters win a freekick from a little outside of the box but the spot kick is well-defended by the wall.

16' Andre Bikey has had a jumpy start so far. He's made a mess out of two simple passes in as many minutes but thankfully for ATK, neither has led to a goal-scoring chance.

12' Jhonson's furious with his attempt. The ATK captain was completely unmarked in the box and had a chance to bury the ball into the net but his header drifted wide of the post.

9' First attempt on goal for ATK. Gerson Vieira lets on rip from way out and the ball soars well above the post.

5' Edu Garcia races into the box and is through on goal but is taken out by a last-gasp desperate tackle from Sandesh Jhingan. The Blasters defender got none of the ball and the challenge looked a tad late, but the referee didn't see a foul there.

3' Oooooh, that was fairly cllose. Prashanth whips in a fine cross from the right and Poplatnik leaps above Johnson but can't get his header on target. Positive start from the home side.

3' He wouldn't want to see more of that. Pronay Halder gives away the first freekick after making a silly foul.

1' KICK-OFF! Kerala Blasters in its traditional yellow kits and ATK in its white and reds.

* Come to think of it, it won't be fair to call it a battle of defences because both teams have lethal attacking options. The Blasters attack features the likes of Matej Poplatnik and Slavisa Stojanovic, both of whom who scored against ATK last time, and enterprising midfielder Sahad Abdul Samad as well.

ATK, though, seems to boast a better attack. The side has been bolstered by the arrival of Edu Garcia and Kalu Uche's return from injury.

One thing is for sure, both the defences are going to have a busy night.

* Kerala Blasters will be led by the burly Sandesh Jhinghan, who had a fine outing at the AFC Asian Cup, while ATK will be led by a towering John Johnson. A battle of the defences in store?

Here's how the two teams will line-up tonight:

 

* The last time Kerala Blasters and ATK clashed was on September 29, 2018, when the Blasters handed ATK a 2-0 defeat. Incidentally, that remains KBFC's only win of the season so far. Can the side repeat the feat tonight? Have your say:

 

Aashin Prasad reviews the first half of the ISL season: ISL mid-season review: Contrasting journeys for Bengaluru FC, Chennaiyin FC

* The ISL resumes after six weeks, a duration which saw the Indian team play in the AFC Asian Cup. The Indians looked impressive for most parts but were unable to get past the first hurdle and suffered a last-gasp loss against Bahrain to exit the tournament.

A lot has happened at Kerala Blasters during the winter break. The team’s two big names, C. K. Vineeth and Halicharan Narzary, have been loaned out to Chennaiyin FC and at one stage, there was even talk that Sandesh Jhingan could move elsewhere. 

Clearly the Kochi-based team, which now has Portugal’s Nelo Vingada as its head coach replacing Englishman David James, does not inspire much confidence as it takes on Kolkata’s ATK -- the only side it has beaten this season -- in the Indian Super League at the Nehru Stadium here on Friday evening.

Vingada made it clear that though he has been with the team for just about three days, he is sure that his boys are capable of playing much better than they have in their first 12 games.

With six games to go, he wants his team to perform and and win back the fans who have kept away from the side's last two home games.

“I’ve told them, ‘tomorrow is the game of our lives’,” said the 65-year-old on the eve of the game. “It’s not just enough to play well, we have to be real great fighters to show everybody that we are playing much above our capacity.”

Vingada said he would not have let go of Vineeth and Narzary had he come earlier. “The decision to loan Vineeth and Narzary was made before I arrived. Vineeth may not be very young but he is an important player because he can smell the goals.”

Jhingan is still with the Blasters and the Kochi side has traded goalkeepers with FC Goa, offering Naveen Kumar on loan for Lalthuammawia Ralte. The team has also signed Assam’s young Baoringdao Bodo but missing will be midfielder Zakeer Mundampara who has been banned by the AIFF for six months for violent conduct against a referee in an earlier game.

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Meanwhile, the ATK is bolstered by the arrival of Spaniard Edu Garcia and defender Pritam Kotal in the winter transfer window.

Coach Steve Coppell, who had guided Blasters to the final in the third ISL edition, has high expectations from his new signings.

“Our problem has been scoring goals and converting chances. We thought Edu would complement our attack going forward in creation and conversion of chances. It would give us more power up front,” said the Englishman.