Defending champions Atletico de Kolkata (ATK) blasted their way to the top of the league as they downed last year’s finalists Kerala Blasters FC 2-1 in an Indian Super League (ISL) encounter at the Salt Lake stadium here on Wednesday.
Arata Izumi scored the first for the hosts while in the second half it was a strike for Spanish midfielder Javi Lara who doubled the lead for ATK. Englishman Chris Dagnall pulled one back for the visitors 10 minutes from the end of regulation time.
With the win ATK now have seven points from three outings, while the Blasters are on four points from three matches.
The defending champions were off to a dream start at their own backyard. Five minutes into the game they made their intentions quite clear as Borja Fernandez long-ranger clattered the crossbar.
A minute later, they bagged a much greater reward as Hume latched on to a floater and unleashed a thunderous left-footer which was spilled by rival goalkeeper Stephen Bywater.
ATK’s Arata Izumi who was lurking around made no mistake in finding the back of the net from close range. The strike also brought smile on the face of Brazilian legend Pele who was in the stadium watching the game as a guest of honour for ATK.
There was also a clash of legs while Arata got on the scoresheet and Gurwinder Singh of the Blasters had to be stretchered off the field in the 10th minute.
Thereafter both sides looked to try and control the midfield which led to very scrappy football. Hume for the homeside worked tirelessly and tried everything possible to feed the other teammates up front but they wasted the few opportunities that came their way.
Three minutes from half-time Kerala had their first clear cut opportunity as Atletico defender Mohanraj failed to clear his lines. Rahul Bheke was quick to get to it and send in a brilliant cross but Dagnall could not get to the end of it. A chance that should have been buried in.
The last chance of the half fell for the hosts and Borja wriggled past defenders to send in a cross for Hume, but the Canadian failed to get his head to it.
After the breather, the around 62,000 crowd at the Salt Lake stadium came to its feet as Javi Lara cut open the Blasters defence with his quick feet and netted the second for his team. The shot could have landed in Bywater’s hands but it took a deflection on-way to beat the Kerala keeper all ends up.
Jolted for the second time in the game, the Blasters tried making a comeback but somehow the midfield failed to switch the passes forward to the strikers and a lot of attacks broke midway.
Habas’ tactics paid off and defensively Kolkata looked a well-knit unit. But at the 80th minute mark the visitors found their first of the night. Peter Ramage’s cross was flicked on by Shankar and Englishman Chris Dangall was there to slot it in.
Kerala attacked with all its might in the last few minutes of the game, but the defence stood strong along with custodian Juan Calatayud who made some brilliant saves.