Kochi, Oct 5 (IANS) Atletico de Kolkata (ATK) registered their first win of the campaign, riding on a second-half goal from Javi Lara to win 1-0 against Kerala Blasters in an Indian Super League (ISL) football match at the Jawaharlal Stadium here on Wednesday.
Lara struck in the 53rd minute after a barren first half to help the former champions edge past the hosts in a repeat match of the 2014 final.
The win takes the Sourav Ganguly co-owned franchise to four points from two matches while the Sachin Tendulkar co-owned team have now lost two in two to drop to the foot of the table.
ATK coach Jose Molina made two changes to the side that drew against Chennaiyin FC in their first match. Robert Lalthlamuana made way for Prabir Das and Jewel Raja came in for the injured Bikramjit Singh who suffered cramps in the last game.
For the hosts, Coppell made six changes to his line-up with Awith Elhadji Ndoye, Pratik Chowdhary, Md. Rafique, Josue, Farukh Choudhary and Duckens Nazon all playing in places of of Ishfaq Ahmed, marquee player Aaron Hughes, Kadio, Vinit Rai, Mohammed Rafi and Kervens Belfort, respectively.
The visitors got the first chance of the match, South African winger Sameehg Doutie, continuing from he had left in the first game in a 2-2 draw against reigning champions Chennaiyin FC, passing neatly to Ian Hume who square passed to Helder Postiga inside the box. But thanks to the alacrity of right back Pratik, Postiga could not take aim.
The Portuguese Postiga though had to be substituted in only the 17th minute as he picked up a knock on his rib. He was replaced by Juan Belencoso.
The hosts picked up steam as the first half went on with Antonio German proving to be a handful for the likes of Arnab Mondal and Tiri at the heart of ATK’s defence.
The game saw end to end action in the 26th minute. First, Kerala’s Haitian Nazon strode past two visiting players to set up German whose shot went over the bar.
Lara, at the other end, saw his effort blocked by Kerala defender Cedric Hengbart after Doutie’s initial shot was cleared by Kerala goalkeeper Graham Stack.
German was constantly teasing the ATK rearguard with his dazzling runs and sublime skills, once leaving Prabir and Jewel in a tizzy down the right flank, shimmying past the two en route to goal.
Both sides went into the break goalless.
ATK took the lead eight minutes after the restart in fortuitous circumstances. Lara’s shot took a wicked deflection off Kerala defender Sandesh Jhinghan and rolled into bottom right corner of the goal.
Sandip Nandy, the oldest player in the tournament, replaced Stack soon after the goal while forward Michael Chopra was drafted in for Duckens Nazon as Kerala looked to equalise.
There was drama in the dying minutes of the match. First Jewel Raja was stretchered out in the 82nd minute, which caused the Kerala players to remonstrate with the referee for time wasting.
Then substitute Kervens Belfort was booked in injury time for a simulation inside the 18-yard box.
In the last few second, Blasters got two back to back corners but the home side failed to muster anything from those.