Chennai City Bow Out As ATK Produce The Performance Of The Round


If you had said to Robbie Keane two months ago that he’d be managing a side in a brand new tournament, he would’ve laughed in your face. Laugh all you like, that’s exactly the situation that the ex-Wolves man found himself in after Westwood decided to walk away from ATK with only a game left in the ISL season. Keane has never struck me as manager material, to be honest, regardless, he’s doing a stellar job so far. In the last of the Super Cup qualifiers, Keane’s ATK entertained Chennai City and the winners would earn the right to face FC Goa in the last 16 of the tournament which is in its debut year.

A first-half that had no goals after forty-four minutes ended with two as goals from ATK’s Hitesh and Chennai City’s Jean Joachim brought the game to life. There was a slight delay prior to Hitesh scoring as the floodlights went out and a part of me feared the worst, had they paid the bill? Luckily, the power came back on and Hitesh finished with his left peg to give ATK a deserved lead.

There’s Only Two J Joachims! 

Keane would have been thinking that would’ve been enough to see his team through to halftime, but Joachim had other ideas. When I checked the goalscorers and it said J.Joachim had scored for Chennai, I thought bloody hell, surely Julian Joachim can’t still be knocking about.

As the story goes, Julian is still playing in England for Radcliffe Olympic at the ripe old age of forty-three. Anyway, back to the case in hand, Jean’s goal was a very well taken diving header and one that his namesake would’ve been proud of. I wonder if they’re aware of each other? There’s a question.

It took only thirteen second-half minutes for ATK to retake the lead as Zequinha slotted home after some good work from player-manager Robbie Keane & Mbatha meant that all the hard work was done and he just had to put it beyond Kabir in the Chennai goal.

Keane Applied The Cherry On Top

From that moment onwards, there was only going to be one winner and it was all but sealed with just under fifteen minutes left after Ashutosh made it 3-1 after some incredibly questionable goalkeeping from Kabir. Keane put the icing on the cake not too long after as he produced a delightful lob to make it 4-1.

While ATK may not have been anywhere near where they should’ve been in the ISL, they seemed to have really turned a corner under the Republic of Ireland’s record goalscorer’s guidance. Keane had this to say after the game yesterday regarding his short spell so far:

‘’I got asked to do a job. I am not frightened of a challenge. I have never been, as a player too. The club needed someone to step in and I did so. Two good results in the last ten days have been good.’’

100% record for Keane. The real test will be against FC Goa in the next round. Despite the majority of the goals coming in the second half, Keane was quick to pay testament to his side’s first-half performance;

‘’The team played very well; we especially dominated in the first half. Lack of concentration in the last minute of the first half gave them (Chennai City) the chance to get back into the game.

This can be a big blow as it can lead to lack of confidence. But, I spoke to the players and asked them to regroup. To be fair, later we controlled the game. We kept the ball moving and scored four. They were some good goals and we played some good football,’’

Admirable Honest From Akbar

It’ll be interesting to see what happens after the Super Cup with Robbie Keane; he seems happy enough and he’s definitely got the quality to carry on as well. Maybe he’ll get offered a player-manager role on a permanent basis for next season. Maybe not. Let’s just enjoy what they’re doing at the moment. In the opposing dugout, Mohammed Akbar, had this to say regarding Keane & Co…

‘’Hitesh Sharma and Robbie Keane impressed me the most. Because of his off-the-ball movements, Keane created a lot of problems for us by drawing boys out of position,’’

Begs the question, why didn’t you put measures in place to counteract it? Never mind. Akbar then gave this brutal assessment of his side’s evening;

‘’We played well; there were just individual errors. For the second goal we conceded, we lost the ball in the midfield. If you lose the ball in that transition and in a one-on-one with someone like (Robbie) Keane, you concede a goal. We need to do better defensively in one-on-one situations. We need to differentiate between a safe and risky pass,’’   

That was the end of that. It’s always refreshing to hear honesty in a post-match press conference so credit must go to Akbar; Keane oozed class with his. Speaking of which, if you’re reading this Robbie, name a time and date and we’ll do an interview. Can’t blame a guy for trying.

In closing, ATK march into the final sixteen with arguably the most comprehensive performance of the qualifiers and it means the last sixteen draw looks like this: Chennaiyin vs Aizawl | Bengaluru vs Gokulam | Mohun Bagan vs Churchill Brothers | Minerva Punjab vs Jamshedpur | FC Goa vs ATK | Pune vs Shillong Lajong | East Bengal vs Mumbai | Neroca vs Kerala Blasters.

If the qualifiers have taught us anything, the games are going to be nigh on impossible to call, so the best bit of advice I can give you is, sit back and enjoy the football. We won’t have a 0-0 throughout the tournament, of that I am sure. We’ll see.

Until the next time.

About the Author

Jake Flock
Football and writing are my two biggest passions, so seems right to combine the pair, don't you think?