This was one of these games which had a lot more riding on it for the away side than it did the home. Kerala knew that they if they departed the Salt Lake Stadium with all three points, then they would be in the top four, on the other hand, ATK were playing for pride as Westwood was allowed to take charge despite the ‘three-game rule’ for an interim coach, but hey, this is the ISL and it springs a surprise almost every time we write a report. Rather it be like that, mind. Imagine everything being predictable and everything following the rulebook, where’s the fun it that?
Find That Kit!
There was a real English zest to this game (yes I said English zest) with both head coaches being English and there being four English players in the starting line-ups alongside two others (Paterson & Berbatov) who have also played in England. Prior to the game, I was intrigued to know how long Berbatov would last as he loves an injury, however, much to my surprise, he lasted eighty minutes, unsurprisingly though, he did irritate me greatly, I’ll come on to that in a bit. ATK were in their traditional red & white stripes and were kicking from right to left in the first half; Kerala were in their appealing black kit, seriously, it’s immense and if anyone Kerala associated is reading this (there’s gotta be someone), please send me a full kit. I’ll wear it with pride whilst I glide around the Sunday League training pitch.
The first half was strange, ATK had the biggest opportunities, yet Kerala had more of the ball and more shots on target, weird, eh? The opening chance of the game was Keegan Pereira’s as his long-range effort went wide, but it was clear to see that Westwood had his team motivated and up for this which was no mean feat in itself when you consider the amount riding on it for the Kolkata side. Paterson then had a massive chance for ATK when he bravely got his head to the ball before Chowdhury could get there, but, instead of his header hitting the back of the net, it went agonisingly over.
Down the other end it was a case of one big chance and one goal for Kerala as Gudjon Baldvinsson got off the mark in the ISL. Prasanth put a tantalising ball in from the left-hand side and the Icelandic forward nodded home via a deflection. It was a lucky goal, with the ricochet and all, but something that puts an either bigger luck stamp on it, is that there is a big question mark over whether or not Prasanth was onside or not when he received the ball; I haven’t seen a definitive replay to give you my wholehearted opinion, but on first glance, he looked off.
Berbatov Is Rubbish
ATK responded quickly through Ryan Taylor. He wanted it more than Berbatov, which will come to no shock to anyone and it was Taylor’s turn to have a lucky deflection as the ball wrongfooted Chowdhury and sent the crowd, well those that were there anyway, into raptures. I still don’t understand the obsession with playing Berbatov in holding midfield, because he’s not someone who smacks you as a battler, is he? He’s more of a give me the ball and I’ll ping it fifty yards type player. Mad. Anyway, the two goals which came about five minutes apart opened the game up a bit more and the best chance for the remainder of the second half went to the away side. Baldvinsson, buoyed by his goal, played it into Courage Pekuson who still had a lot to do. It seemed that the Ghanaian had missed his chance as he ran into a sea of red & white bodies, sometimes though, things change and that’s exactly what happened as Pekuson let rip from a not too dissimilar distance to where Taylor had scored from, his effort went just wide though and that was a wrap for the first forty-five minutes.
David James’ team talk would have been interesting at halftime as the players would have known what they need to do and that was get all three points, so you could argue he wouldn’t really have to have said anything. Westwood, on the contrary, probably told his side that their lives depended on it and they would face the firing squad if they lost, he seems like that kind of bloke. The opening chance of the second half was a BIG one. The ball was played into the box and ATK, who hadn’t learnt anything from the first half, afforded all the time and space in the world to Baldvinsson. Instead of the net rippling, though, Aganba was level to Baldvinsson on this occasion and despite the header not being that well placed it still had some power behind it.
Berbatov Is Brilliant
Now a habit of mine that seems unbreakable. You question a player or manager and then they go and prove you wrong. Step forward, Dimitar Berbatov. An innocuous free-kick broke out to the ex-Man United player and he hit it first time into the bottom right-hand corner. Ping. Just like that. It didn’t even look difficult which is probably why he irritates me so much, he’s that good without being arsed half the time. What a player. There were half chances here and there but not much worth writing home about up until Tom Thorpe drew ATK level for the second time. I said that Prasanth’s ball was tantalising for Baldvinsson’s goal earlier, well, Taylor’s assist for Thorpe was even better than that. It was one of those where if there was a fifty pence piece within the area, Taylor would have found it. What a delivery.
So, there was now fifteen minutes left and despite both teams pushing for the winner, the best chance fell in deep stoppage time and it fell to Baldvinsson. Another header. A chance for the Kerala fans to adore him even more. Fluffed it. He should have taken his time as he had some time to think about what he was doing, but he didn’t as it was eventually cleared by ATK and they were naturally relieved at the end, knowing they didn’t have to face the firing squad.
Kerala’s hopes of making the top four now look like they’ll be going the same way as ATK’s. Nowhere.
Until the next time.