FULL-TIME: Kerala Blasters 1-1 ATK
Kerala Blasters: Gerson [88′ – Own Goal]; ATK: Edu Garcia [85′]
The return of the Indian Super League after the winter break saw Kerala Blasters with a new coach at the helm share points with Steve Coppell’s ATK.
The new Kerala manager Nelo Vingada set them up in a 4-1-4-1 formation with Sahal Abdul Samad and Stojanovic playing behind the striker Matej Poplatnik. Len Doungel and Prasanth K. took up positions in the wide areas and Nikola Krčmarević occupied the holding midfield role.
Kerala started off more positively among the two sides and created chances which had Poplatnik at the end of them, but the forward failed to score from a series of attempts on goal.
ATK’s new signing, Edu Garcia came close to putting them in the lead in the 43rd minute, but his sighter from outside the box was denied by the Kerala custodian Dheeraj Singh as the two teams went into the first half on level pegging.
Kerala Blasters started off the second half in a similar vein with some great chances falling to Stojanovic who missed hitting the target from 10 yards out and Poplatnik’s effort saved spectacularly by the ATK keeper Arindam Bhattacharya.
The lack of ability to finish which has plagued Kerala for the entirety of this season reared its head again as Kerala went behind to a well-taken free-kick by Edu Garcia. Garcia got his debut goal in the 85th minute after sliding the free kick below the wall as the defensive wall of Kerala jumped up in anticipation.
Down a goal, Kerala poured forward and a cross into the box from Cyril Kali saw the header from Poplatnik pick up a deflection off Gerson Viera and go into the goal. The scores were level as the game ended in a draw.
A quick look at the Expected Goals graph tonight reveals how Kerala Blasters dominated the game with their collective xG three times as much as ATK. They also dominated the top shooters and creators stat with Poplatnik at the end of more than half a dozen chances.
The creative play from the Kerala wide players, full-backs and Sahal Abdul Samad was all in vain because of their inability to take their chances.
Having scored against the run of play to take the lead, ATK will feel disappointed they couldn’t hold on to their lead for a few minutes to secure all three points.
With the draw, both Kerala and ATK remain where they were on the table – eighth and sixth respectively.