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Sunday, July 21, 2024

ISL 2016: Kochi stunned as ATK pip Kerala in shootout, clinch title

KOCHI: The Jawaharlal Nehru International Stadium in Kochi plunged into stunned silence as Atletico de Kolkata’s Jewel Raja sent goalkeeper Graham Stack the wrong way and buried the ball into the right corner of Kerala Blasters’ net with the fifth and decisive penalty of the shootout.
The strike saw Atletico de Kolkata lift their second ISL crown. On both occasions, the unlucky losers were the Blasters. If it was a goal from Mohammad Rafique in the added-on time which saw Kolkata beating Blasters in the summit clash in the inaugural season of ISL in Mumbai, the shootout left the Blasters heartbroken at home this time around.athletico-kolkatta
The match went into extra-time and tiebreaker after the teams were level on 1-1 at the end of regulation time. After Antonio German put Blasters ahead in the penalty shootout, the darling of Kerala fans two seasons ago, Iain Hume, strode out to take the first kick for the Kolkata side. Much to his dismay, the Canadian saw his kick being saved by Blasters keeper Stack diving to his left and the Blasters fans rejoiced. But that joy was short-lived as Ndoye hit the ball over the bar with the third spot kick for Blasters and the scores were tied 2-2.
The next set of penalties saw Rafique and Lara finding the target for Blasters and Kolkata respectively. But the final penalty in tie-break for Blasters taken by Cedric Hengbart was saved by Kolkata goalkeeper Debjit Majumder. Raja then made no mistake in converting the final penalty to send his team into ecstasy.
Molina started with a defensive approach with Pritam Kotal starting alongside Keegan Pereira as full-back. The move made sense as Kolkata’s back-four successfully stopped Blasters forwards along the wings. Blasters had their first opportunity in the ninth minute. After Belfort latched on to a clearance from Blasters defence, he powered along the middle passing ATK’s Pritam Kotal on the way before passing the ball to CK Vineeth on the right. But the fleet-footed Blasters striker messed up his first touch and gave away the ball easily.
But ATK slowly gained the upper hand. Blasters’ coach Steve Coppell’s decision to field Ishfaq Ahmed at the left-back position in place of Josu Currais Prieto, who was facing a suspension, did not work as planned as Ishfaq struggled to match Kolkata’s Sameehg Doutie’s speed.
ATK gave Blasters a taste of their own medicine as they relied on the speed of the wingers to create chances. Though the home team successfully closed out Postiga and Borja Fernandez, Hume was given a lot of space in the Blasters box and he nearly scored the opener in the 32nd minute. Doutie smartly cut past Ishfaq along the right and received a ball from the centre before giving a low cross to Hume. Though the Canadian forward stretched himself and got past an advancing Stack, he missed the target by inches. Four minutes later, Coppell was forced to substitute injured Aaron Hughes with Elhadji Ndoye.
Soon, Blasters broke the deadlock against the run of play through a corner in the 37th minute. The goal came due to some sluggish defending from ATK’s Kotal who failed to keep hold of Blasters’ Mohammad Rafi and the Kerala striker rose high above the defender to head Mehtab’s corner past Majumder into goal. But Kolkata didn’t take long to equalise. In the 44th minute, Henrique Sereno headed past Stack from a Doutie corner leaving defender Sandeep Jhingan a spectator.


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