Two time runner-up Kerala Blasters got its fifth Indian Super League (ISL) campaign off to a flying start with a 2-0 drubbing of ATK, here at the Salt Lake Stadium on Saturday.
Solvenian striker Matej Poplatnik found the lead in the 77th minute before Serbia's Slavisa Stojanovic doubled the side's lead in the 86th minute. The win marked the Blasters' first win against ATK since November 2014.
Kerala Blasters came in as a more composed side and began to explore the chinks in the ATK defence early on. Halicharan Narzary breezed up the left in the fourth minute to set up an onrushing Poplatnik in the centre of the box and the Slovenian forward replied with a sharp header that drifted past the far post.
This set the tone of action for the next 20 odd minutes, where the Blasters made three forays into the box. The visitor maintained its momentum and earned the first corner in the 13th minute. Poplatnik took the set piece and set up well for Nemanja Pesic, who jumped above the crowd for a header. His effort beat ATK goalkeeper Arindam Bhattacharya but Sena Ralte moved in time to clear the ball off the line.
Sahal Abdul Samad, who made his debut on the evening, surged ahead from midfield and fired a powerful drive in the 33rd minute, forcing Arindam to make a sharp diving save.
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ATK tried to shake off the pressure by launching some counter-attacks, one of which fetched it a corner in the 39th minute. Jayesh Rane had a clear look at the goal when Noussair Maimouni’s corner found him unmarked, but the Indian midfielder sent his header well wide.
The Blasters continued to mount pressure on the ATK defence after the break and finally found the opening goal in the 77th minute when a deflected attempt from Stojanovic was nodded home by Poplatnik. Rattled by the setback, ATK continued to make more errors at the back as Stojanovic himself converted a floater from Narzary to fire home the insurance goal in the 86th minute and steer his side to all three points on offering.
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