A ten-man Atletico de Kolkata secured a 1-0 win over Delhi Dynamos at the Rabindra Sarovar Stadium to continue their unbeaten run in the third edition of the Indian Super League. Both clubs came into this match with equal number of points and a similar record (one win and three draws in four matches), hoping to stamp their authority on a season in which a firm favourite is yet to emerge.
In an evenly poised contest, neither club could draw blood in the first half as a result of underwhelming finishing from both sets of forwards.
Late into the second half, from a stunned silence to rambunctious cheers, the Kolkata crowd experienced a flurry of emotions within a matter of minutes, as the home side recovered from the verge of conceding a goal to breaking the deadlock with a strike of their own.
Marcelo Pereira had skied his spot kick after the agile Richard Gadze was brought down by Henrique Sereno in the Atletico box, a foul which led to the Portuguese defender's sending off. Less than a minute later, Atletico had secured a penalty of their own through Sameehg Doutie. Iain Hume did not make any mistake and gave Atletico an unassailable lead.
Here are four takeaways from Atletico's hard-fought win over Delhi Dynamos:
1. Atletico must work on finishing chances
Atletico's struggles in front of the goal have been well-documented. Ahead of their encounter against Delhi Dynamos, the Kolkata club had outshot their opponents in every single fixture but could not convert their chances into goals.
Although Jose Molina's men have registered 58 shots so far this season, a paltry 10 percent conversion rate is indicative of their poor finishing. Marquee player Helder Postiga's absence may have forced Atletico's hand to a certain extent, but their tendency of failing to hit the target continue to baffle spectators and pundits alike. Against the Lions, the likes of Sameehg Doutie and Juan Belencoso showcased their dubious decision-making when presented with numerous opportunities to put their team in front.
"I think we had a great game. Of course, we can improve and yes we had a lot of opportunities to score but we missed. But overall, I think we did a great job in attack and defence as well. We dominated the match," asserted Molina after the match.
Atletico's lack of composure in the final third have already led to the team dropping points against Chennaiyin FC and FC Goa at home - and the manager needs to find a solution soon to avoid further embarrassment.
2. Atletico's defensive prowess is eye-catching
Atletico de Kolkata has one of the strongest defensive units in the ISL. The centre-half duo of Sereno and Tiri had all but marked Gadze out of the match by preventing his movement between the channels. Although Sereno was sent off for his second punishable offence, the Portuguese' aerial prowess complemented Tiri's reading of the game.
In addition to denying the Delhi Dynamos' attacking midfielders space to operate in, the Atletico backline thoroughly commanded their defensive third for the majority of the match. On the occasions when the likes of Marcelo and Florent Malouda found their way past the Atletico defence, Debjit Majumder stood strong to see away all the attacks.
One of the highlights of an otherwise insipid first half was the Atletico custodian's triple save to keep his side's clean sheet intact. Prabir Das' clearance off the line in the first half was yet another example of Atletico's resolute defending.
3. Gianluca Zambrotta must be more proactive
Delhi Dynamos registered double the number of shots on target as compared to the home side, yet failed to find the back of the net. Zambrotta's tactical switch had paid dividends against Mumbai City FC in their previous match, but the former Italian World Cupper came up short against Atletico.
While Marcelo's unfortunate penalty miss will be the talking point of the match, the Lions rarely threatened Majumder's goal on a consistent basis. Not only did Zambrotta fail to counter Atletico's defensive manoeuvre of compressing space, he left it way too late to introduce influential playmaker Bruno Pelissari and super-sub Badara Badji into the match.
4. Iain Hume - a consistent performer
The 33-year-old Canadian forward has been the most consistent foreigner throughout the course of three seasons of the ISL. Against the Dynamos, Hume equalled Stiven Mendoza's record of the most number of goals (18) scored by any player in the league.
Adored by fans for his affable attitude, Hume has 37 ISL appearances for Kerala Blasters and Atletico de Kolkata. Renowned for his tenacity and industriousness on the pitch, Hume has also demonstrated his leadership qualities, and the Atletico attack plays with a greater sense of purpose when Hume is leading from the front.
With Postiga's continued absence and Belencoso's below-par performances, Hume's form is crucial to Atletico's chances. The win helped Atletico leapfrog to the second position in league standings, a point behind NorthEast United who have played a match more. As Molina's side prepare for tougher battles in their upcoming matches, Atletico faithful hope their team can carry forward the momentum to secure a semi-final berth.
Updated Date: Oct 23, 2016 11:22 AM