ISL 2020-21: Habas content with hard-fought ATKMB win 

ISL 2020-21: Habas content with hard-fought ATKMB win 

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ISL: Habas content with hard-fought ATKMB win 

The Kolkata-based outfit clinched a narrow hard-fought win over Kerala Blasters.

Indian Super League (ISL) season 2020-21 saw the opening campaign of the league go in the favor of ATK Mohun Bagan as the visitors secured all three points by the narrowest margin win, all thanks to Roy Krishna's 67th minute strike that turned out to be the difference between the two sides on Friday evening.

The match, which was played at the GMC Bambolim Athletic Stadium, in Goa, turned out to be an evenly-contested affair as both sides looked matched in strength from end-to-end.

However, despite the loss, it was Kerala Blasters who dominated most part of the stats, as the hosts enjoyed 68% possession, and completed 516 passes with 83% accuracy as compared to the visitors who couldn’t even make half of those numbers, having just managed to compete 252 passes with 60% accuracy. The only stat which did not go in their favor was the shots on target- 12 shots taken of which none were on target, while ATKMB managed to put on target from 8 attempts, with one turning out to be the winner.

In the opening minutes, ATKMB had two chances to take the lead. The first chance fell to Roy Krishna, as the Fijian international was unmarked during a corner, and the last season’s top goalscorer for the side only managed to put it wide as he couldn’t properly connect with the ball.

The next corner also couldn’t test the Kerala goalkeeper, as Carl McHugh's header was off target, and so was Roy Krishna’s attempt from outside the box just eight minutes later.

The best opportunity for the hosts came when Ritwik Das was found at the end of a cross which however the young lad couldn’t keep on target as both the teams went back to the dressing room with a goalless first half.

The second half's first big chance also fell to the hosts, as Jessel Carneiro's cross deflected all the way to Sahal Abdul Samad's feel, who only managed to scuffle his attempt off the target.

The lack of finishing up front turned out to be costly for the hosts as a miscommunication between defenders in the 67th minute led to a loose ball near the box, which fell to Roy Krishna, as the Fijian pounced upon it to earn the lead for the visitors.

That was enough for the visitors to earn their three points as the men in yellow in spite of spending a lot of time in ATKMB's half thereafter, couldn’t manage to get an equalizer.

ATKMB's head coach Antonio Lopez Habas was satisfied with his team’s effort. “It is very difficult to compete well after a long period of time away from the game. But this is football. The team played fantastic during the game. Now we have to think about the game against SC East Bengal and we will prepare by training every day,” Habas said.

“We had to correct the situation of the central midfielders and the strikers. After the substitution [of Pronay Halder with Manvir Singh], we improved. We had to press the opponents and I feel this result is good for us. Kerala played well but I am very happy with the three points today,” he further added.

The visitors had an early jolt as Soosairaj was stretchered off the field in the first half after a collision with Kerala’s Prasanth, to which the Spaniard said, “We have to wait to understand the problem with Soosairaj. We will give all the support to Soosairaj to help him recover as soon as possible.”

Despite the loss, Kerala Blasters' head coach Kibu Vicuna was satisfied with the way his team played, “Our plan for the game was very clear. We are happy with the performance of the team. Unfortunately, we lost because of that goal. We had some chances to score but we didn’t convert so now we have to focus on the next game. We have to improve in the final third. Our attackers and midfielders didn’t participate too much in the final third. So we have to try to improve this aspect of the game,” he said.

Nishu Kumar was not deployed at the right-back for the hosts, as the fans expected, and Prasanth was put there instead, to which the coach explained, “Prasanth can play in that position. Today he had a good game. He can play as a right-back when required. Nishu Kumar is an important player for us but he had some problems in the pre-season. When he is 100%, I’m sure he is going to be an important player for us.”

Kerala Blasters will host NorthEast United FC in their second campaign of the league on November 26th at the Bambolim, while ATKMB will be set to face SC East Bengal in the much-awaited Kolkata Derby at the Tilak Maidan on November 27th.

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