Talking Points: When Kerala Blasters Handed ATK Their First Home Defeat

Rohit Ganguly  |  ISL-5  |  5 Months Ago

Kerala handed ATK their first defeat of the season in the ISL opener after Matej Poplantik and Slavisa Stojanovic netted a goal apiece in the second-half to tame the hosts in their own backyard. Thanks to a redoubtable show from Arindam Bhattacharya, John Johnson and Gerson Vieira that the scoreline looked respectable enough for ATK to cope with. Had it not been for their heroics, ATK would have been six feet under humiliation.


Kerala started the game holding sway right since its outset. They could have gone well ahead in a span of ten minutes had it not been for Poplantik’s profligacy upfront and a gritty block from Gerson.


This was followed by another goal-line save from Sena Ralte denying glory to Lekic-Pesic after the Serb’s meaty header was dipping venomously towards the goal.


Lanzarote, the only hope in an otherwise dazed Kolkata contingency, almost whipped in a screamer from a corner but was denied by the woodwork as the ball bounced off the crossbar for a goal-kick.



The deadlock was finally rattled in the 77th minute after Matej Poplantik, nudged home an easy header jumping past a stranded Arindam as the ball bounced up taking an odd hit of Gerson Vieira’s block. In a span of 10 minutes, Kerala snuffed out any further resistance from the hosts as Stojanovic spanked a meaty piledriver in the top-right corner beyond the stretched hands of a desperate Arindam to make it 2-0 for Kerala. Here are the talking points.



It was all head and tail for both the sides. Midfield is still to be taught?


No matter how good the goals were or how many chances did both the teams spawn, the only visible action in the midfield was nothing but a zillion miss-passes. Every single time ATK got the ball in the midfield, they looked like a bunch of greenhorns who have been put in the field for the sake of showing it off to the onlookers.


Barring Lanzarote, the entire ATK midfield was dormant. Lanza, the ATK skipper needs a special mention as he took an extraordinary work rate and not only did he spearhead the otherwise depleted attack, he played a cardinal defensive midfield role which was supposed to be carried out by the humongous Pronay Halder, whose sole effort in the game was pummeling a toothless shot at an edgy Dheeraj.


Kerala did show signs of a promising midfield until Abdul Samad was on the field. This little fellow breathed magic with some wonderful passes and some breathtaking holding ability in the midfield. Just as he was superseded with Pekuson, Kerala started emulating Kolkata too.


Kerala passed the ball to ATK, thereby scuffling their own chances and ATK repaid them the favour with a tantamount abysmal panoply of miss-passes.



Johnson and Vieira — The Copell boys!


It was just six minutes down the clock and Poplantik unleashed a thunderous strike at the Kolkata goal. Johnson came crashing down to deny the Slovenian any share of joy. The rebound fell for Holicharan Narzary whose shot was again blocked by the English defender with consummate ease.


Poplantik was set free again from a stupendous cross from the left, whipped in by Lalruatthara. The Slovenian giant of a striker drilled a low shot but was stymied by a diving Gerson Vieira.


Samad was again set free on the 40th-minute mark by another impeccable Lalruatthara pass, and he did a brilliant job to skin a couple of ATK defenders and unleashed a tracer bullet which was refused by Johnson’s gigantic stride.


Stojanovic tried to break free from Johnson waving his arms, but the Englishman had the last laugh as he shrugged off another Kerala attack with growing panache.



Rakip skidded past Sena Ralte with a crisp one-two with Doungel and unfurled a low shot which was again thwarted by a diving Gerson Vieira.


Poplantik came close to scoring again just as his gem of a shot was taken straight into the body by Gerson Vieira.


After all his heroics, it was Gerson’s sloppy block against a Stojanovic’s shot, which bobbed up to Poplantik and the Slovenian calmly jumped up and nudged the ball home from point-blank range.

Did ATK just pull off a Domino? “Lady Luck, take the wheel!!!”


Poplantik himself could have slotted in at least a half-dozen goals if not for the brilliance of Johnson, Vieira and Arindam Bhattacharya. It was also his prodigal nature which spared ATK a humiliation, to begin with.

Abdul Samad could have spanked a brace to peg ATK back further. Stojanovic failed to score from point-blank range on a couple of occasions.


Seminglen Doungel was denied by Arindam Bhattacharya on a couple of occasions. Abdul Samad probed Arindam with a few pile drivers of his own.


Courage Pekuson’s swerving shot was traded for a corner towards the end of the game. If this is not luck, amen!



Two goals and ATK back to square one!


Despite all the doggedness and heroics from a lacklustre ATK contingency, Kerala snubbed it all off in two spectacular moves.


Pekuson did put in some muscle to wriggle free from the burly Halder and he laid it bare for Stojanovic to test the custodian. The Serb got his shot blocked by Vieira and the ball bobbed up to an opportunistic Poplantik who jumped well enough to meet the loose ball and headed it into the net past a stranded Arindam Bhattacharya, caught off his line.


The second goal was sheer brilliance as Stojanovic was teed up by Pekuson again and with some fancy footwork got past a rushing Vieira and slammed a piledriver into the top right corner past a desperately diving Arindam Bhattacharya who was again off his line. Goodnight ATK.


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