ISL Analysis | Persistent ATK capitalize on Delhi’s fragile defence

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ISL Media

ISL Analysis | Persistent ATK capitalize on Delhi’s fragile defence

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Subhayan Dutta

12/23/2017

Atletico de Kolkata continued their winning run in the ISL as they defeated Delhi Dynamos 1-0 at the Yuba Bharati Krirangan on Saturday. Delhi suffered their fifth consecutive defeat of the campaign to remain rock bottom of the table as Kolkata moved to the seventh spot with seven points in the bag.

Teddy Sheringham gets his tactics right just in time

Since their star player, Robbie Keane, has returned to the side three games back, ATK have visibly improved. Their lack lustrous attack seemed to have found the missing edge as they have scored four goals since his return, after managing just one in the opening three games. However, despite his vision, composure, and trickery in the attacking third, Kolkata’s real strength has always been their ability to physically dominate their opponents in all three parts of the field.

With Ryan Taylor coming in the thick of things and Zequinha looking as sharp as ever, things are finally falling into places for the defending champions. However, the hosts were looking at a cheap draw at Yuba Bharati Krirangan today, after a dull first-half hardly saw them as a threat whatsoever. The reason was Keane’s deployment as their spearheading striker. With Delhi defending deep, Taylor and Hitesh Sharma couldn’t meet Keane’s incisive runs perfectly, while the crosses from Zequinha, Jayesh Rane, and Prabir Das failed to reach the 5’7” forward.

ATK’s only chances came when Keane was forced to drop back and play in the four-man midfield. Whether it was his ability to hold the ball or his dummies for Zequinha to run up the left flank, Kolkata clearly needed him at the heart of an offence that appeared to be struggling for ideas. It was only after half-time that Sheringham realized the same and decided to play him as a false 9 and it led to Delhi’s defence finally being unlocked. However, it still needed the individual brilliance from Keane to break the deadlock.

The problem is with Delhi Dynamos’ mentality

Though the game was branded by many as the bottom of the table clash, Kolkata were hardly sailing in the same boat as Delhi. Though both the teams struggled to get wins in their last five games, Kolkata could still hold two teams to a stalemate, something which Delhi hadn’t been able to achieve. And the repeated failures appear to be having an effect on the players.

With the visitors coming on the back of four consecutive losses, coach Miguel Angel Portugal Vicario was hardly looking at a win in today’s game, that too, in Kolkata’s den, which their movements and tactics clearly reflected. It was further worsened by the absence of defender Gabriel Cichero, who has been their only source of inspiration so far in the current campaign. Without his leadership, the side looked directionless and tried to slow down the game at every instance in order to see it off without another defeat by hook or by crook.  

They got very lucky very early in the game as the linesman failed to notice the trailing arm of Pratik Chowdhary inside the penalty box, which otherwise could have dismantled their closely knit structure long before the 78th minute. They have lacked creativity in the midfield and up front throughout the season and whatever little they got today, was dismissed by ineffective attempts and the inability to make runs effectively. They could take just four shots on the goal in the entire game and didn’t even bother to go for an equalizer after ATK got the lead in the last quarter.

The Showstopper

Without a doubt Robbie Keane remains the star of the game today as he notched his first ISL goal with a wonderful solo effort. Though the stats of the one-sided game wouldn’t reveal much about Kolkata’s attacking dilemma, the hosts were severely understaffed today. With Robin Singh injured and Njazi Kuqi not 100% fit, Sheringham had to keep two goalkeepers on the bench today. 

Even when Keane looked ineffective in the first-half, the manager had little options to change up front. He tweaked his tactics a bit that demanded the 37-year-old to double his work rate, which was again a risky decision as they cannot afford to lose him by any means now.

Delhi marked the Irishman heavily throughout the game, reducing his action to just 31 touches in the entire game and even under all this pressure, his passing accuracy was a respectable 56%. However, it was his composure on the ball that made all the difference at the end. His majestically soft first-touch in the fifth minute where he turned the other side of his man to unleash a low drive, exuded his rich quality that was unparalleled on the field today. He was even called on to defend in the last few minutes where he blocked a shot from Delhi’s bleak attack.

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