As the Indian Super League (ISL) heads into the international break after this weekend, two gargantuan clubs in ATK and Jamshedpur FC took stock at the Yuva Bharati Krirangan, Kolkata on Saturday, hoping to carry their momentum into the break. Amidst the constant downpours which plagued the city and the state for the entire day, ATK came out on top, ending Jamshedpur FC’s unbeaten streak through a 3-1 victory featuring a masterclass from Roy Krishna.
Here are four takeaways from the 19th game of the current edition:
Roy Krishna and David Williams’ partnership a rare commodity for the ISL
Strike partnerships, while a staple in European football in the past decade, have been rare in the Indian league's short span. In come Krishna and David Williams from Wellington Phoenix, that too on the back of a successful A-League season. For a league which has been accustomed to foreign imports past their prime showing only glimpses of their talent, these two have taken the ISL by storm.
Williams’ pressing high up the field has led to chances and goals for the Kolkata-franchise and his ability to chase down the defenders leading to turnovers was on display against Jamshedpur as well. Not only is the indigenous Australian clinical in his finishing, but his vision to find teammates in open spaces is excellent. Williams, on his own, can lead any team’s forward line with panache. Add Krishna, who has been more understated of the two, to the mix, and we have a pair feeding off each other’s energy, tormenting the opposition defence and setting up each other consistently.
On Saturday, Krishna earned and converted the first two penalties, giving ATK an unassailable lead. For the first, it was his dribbling skills which outdid opposing skipper Tiri and Krishna sent Paul the opposite way to open the scoring. It was ATK’s second goal of the night which further enhanced his aura. The Fijian international ignored a kick to his chest from Tiri just outside the penalty area and was almost through on goal, only for Memo Moura to foul him again. Even a retake of the penalty or Subrata Pal’s constant chatter did not trip him up mentally as he calmly slotted it past the experienced custodian and celebrated with a shrug of his shoulders.
ATK are Title Contenders
On a rainy evening in Kolkata, ATK came out all guns blazing as a positive result for the home side never looked in doubt, right from the onset. Solid in defense and dynamic in midfield, ATK’s strengths clearly lie in the offensive aspect of their squad. The plethora of goals ATK have scored has drawn the layman’s attention, but it is their all-round balance which has helped them lay down the marker so early into the season.
Habas’ 3-5-2 formation has been refreshing to watch as his players have pressed with a tenacity barely associated with Indian clubs. While Javi Hernandez has been instrumental in the ball progression through the midfield, Michael Soosairaj and Jayesh Rane have flown under the radar in spite of their excellent displays. Soosairaj, in particular, has been a revelation — the 24-year-old was tasked with the role of left wingback in Habas’ formation and has improved with every single appearance. From overlapping runs out wide, cutting inside to create chances for the forwards to attempting incredible shots on goal, Soosairaj has done it all.
Rane was a lively presence on the wings against Jamshedpur and almost got himself on the scoresheet with a low shot after wriggling through the visitors’ backline, only for it to drive inches wide off the post. ATK’s depth is impressive as well, with Edu Garcia bagging himself goals off the bench in every other game — his stoppage time goal against Jamshedpur an absolute beauty, for the Spaniard chipped it over the advancing Pal before latching onto a single-touch pass from Krishna.
Arguably the most laudable aspect of ATK’s campaign has been their focus, irrespective of whether they lost narrowly against Kerala Blasters or won comprehensively against Hyderabad FC. “We have to go, recover, clear our brains and continue performing (after the break). Football is a step-by-step process. Now, the victories are the past and we need to think about the coming matches.
"The team still needs to improve,” said Habas, refusing to acknowledge any talk of being favourites after Saturday’s match.
Rain played spoilsport on Saturday
Rains have heavily featured in both of ATK’s home games this season; while the rest of the state was busy in preparing for Cyclone Bulbul which eventually hit the southernmost parts of West Bengal about an hour after the game finished, an 8,000-strong crowd still thronged the Yuva Bharati Krirangan, not wanting to miss out on Krishna’s fireworks.
Constant rains however disrupted the ideal conditions for playing, with the ball often skidding off the pitch, resulting in late challenges and a couple of rash tackles from both teams. To make matters worse for Jamshedpur FC, Piti, their creative attacking outlet, limped off with a muscle injury in the first half, one which many think would have not been an issue in drier circumstances.
Jamshedpur FC lacked necessary flair to outdo ATK
Antonio Iriondo’s side were quick out of the gates, but have stuttered in their last two games against quality opposition. While giving away the penalties can be down to individual errors, it is their lack of flair in the attacking lines which would be concerning for the Men of Steel.
Farukh Chowdhury had hit the crossbar as early as the eighth minute after Piti played him through, but until the 85th minute when Williams brought down substitute Noe Acosta in ATK’s penalty area, Iriondo’s side barely created anything. Sergio Castel converted the spot kick to score his third goal of the season but the young Spaniard has often cut an isolated figure up top, frustrated at the lack of clear goal-scoring chances.
With the international break in the offing, Jamshedpur FC have a chance to contemplate their strategy and reset themselves; and that is exactly what Iriondo plans to do. “We have to improve almost everything. We are a new team with new players and a new style. We hope that with time and hard work we will keep improving and we will get better than this week,” the manager told reporters after the game.
Updated Date: Nov 10, 2019 13:51:55 IST