Blasters salvages draw, remains winless in 12 matches

An own-goal from Gerson Vieira saved Kerala Blasters' blushes as it clawed its way back to a 1-1 draw against ATK in the Indian Super League.

ATK players celebrate Edu Garica's (R) opening goal against the Blasters.   -  H. Vibu

Two goals towards the end saw Kerala Blasters force two-time champion ATK to a 1-1 draw in the Hero Indian Super League at the Nehru Stadium here on Friday.

AS IT HAPPENED

Just when Edu Garcia’s 85 minute freekick, which went through the wall as the home boys jumped gingerly, looked to be the ATK match-winner came the equaliser. The Blasters’ Slovenian forward Matej Poplatnik appeared to head in a high ball from Cyril Kali but the ball hit ATK defender Gerson Vieira’s foot before going in.

It was a match that the Blasters should have won comfortably. They dominated and created plenty of chances but poor finishing did them in.

Despite playing against a side which had been strengthened by the inclusion of attacking midfielder Garcia, the Blasters looked stronger for a major part.

With the home side on a 11-match winless streak, the fans – who had roared and virtually pushed their team forward in previous seasons – decided to give the game a miss and the match was played in a near-empty stadium.

 

The home side showed its intent early when K. Prasanth sent a lovely cross from the right in the third minute but Slovenian forward Matej Poplatnit headed it out. That was the story almost all through.

Defender Lalruatthara and midfielder Seiminlen Doungel came up with some fine runs on the left flank. And around the half-hour mark, Doungel looked dangerous inside the box as Serbian Slavisa Stojanovic sent a piercing pass to him. But the ATK central defender Andre Bikey saw off the danger smartly.

Doungel frequently posed a threat but the ATK central defenders, Spaniard Bikey and Englishman John James, came up with a sterling display, thwarting his moves.

At the other end, Garcia – who was in action in the Chinese League recently -  came up with a lovely long-ranger towards the end of the first half that caught the home defence off guard but young Dheeraj Singh made a brilliant flying save.

The Blasters appeared better in the second session and should have taken the lead after Lalruatthara sent a promising cross from the left to Slavisa Stojanovic. But the Serbian, who was well placed, shot over from close as coach Vingada looked on in disappointment.

A minute later, Prasanth sent a lovely cross from the right but Poplatnik’s shot was nicely pushed away by the ATK custodian Bhattacharya.