Amidst the mesmerizing presence of the football God Pele, home side Atletico de Kolkata (ATK) went to the top of the table with a 2-1 win over Kerala Blasters. It was the first home fixture for the defending champions while more than 60,000 fans had turned up at the Salt Lake Stadium and cheered for their home team. Brushing aside the 'handicap' of missing a number of key players, defending champions pulled off all odds, with a defying 2-1 win over last year's finalists Kerala Blasters.
Arata Izumi and Javi Lara scored on either side of half-time to help Atletico de Kolkata to get off to a perfect start. Kerala Blasters did pull one back through Chris Dagnall in the 81st minute. Atletico took full advantage of the positioning of both Kerala full-backs as they stretched the three-man Yellow Army defense and opened up pockets of space in danger areas.
Habas effected a major overhaul in the defense with Spaniard Juan Calatayud coming under the bar for the first time and Josemi returning to the heart of backline, while N Mohanraj replaced Tiri as left-back. Introduction of Nadong Bhutia on the right, in place of the suspended Baljit Sahni, gave the home team's attack a fresh impetus.
Inclusion of Victor Pulga at halftime helped Kerala to regain the control in midfield, as Mehtab and Shankar pushed forward to join the two English strikers in attack. Watt and Dagnall, isolated and lacking in the first half, looked extremely lively in the second as they combined to bypass the compact Atletico defense.
Kerala Blasters Team: Ramandeep Singh, Peter Ramage, Carlos Marchena (Marquee), Cavin Lobo, João Coimbra, Chris Dagnall, Sanchez Watt, Ishfaq Ahmed, Shankar Sampingiraj, C.K. Vineeth, Mehtab Hossain, Sandesh Jhingan, Gurwinder Singh, Manandeep Singh, Mohammed Rafi, Bruno Perone, Saumik Dey, Marcus Williams, Stephen Bywater, Peter Carvalho, Pulga, Josue, Shilton Paul, Rahul Bheke, Sandip Nandy.
Atletico de Kolkata Team: Juan Calatayud, Javi Lara, Nallappan Mohanraj, Tiri, Arnab Mondal, Baljit Sahni, Iain Hume, Jaime Gavilán, Hélder Postiga, Borja, Valdo, Denzil Franco, Amrinder Singh, Nadong Bhutia, Clifford Miranda, Jewel Raja, Josemi (Captain), Sushil Kumar Singh, Syed Rahim Nabi, Rino Anto, Arata Izumi, Sameehg Doutie, Ofentse Nato, Augustin Fernandes, Lalchhawnkima, Kunzang Bhutia
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