ISL Analysis | Dominating Chennayin FC punishes ATK's sloppy defence

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ISL Analysis | Dominating Chennayin FC punishes ATK's sloppy defence

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SportsCafe Desk


Atletico de Kolkata were handed their second defeat of the campaign on Thursday after Chennaiyin FC scored thrice in the at the Marina Arena. However, the visitors would take inspiration from Robbie Keane's return and their undying attitude to the next game as they remain in search of first win.

Sleepy defence cost ATK the game

Barring the game against FC Pune City, where the defending champions were left staring at the flurry of goals helplessly, Teddy Sheringham’s Atletico de Kolkata have largely been dominating at the back against tough opponents Kerala Blasters and on a terrible pitch in Jamshedpur. Their robust backline was perhaps one of the fewer positives Sheringham could think of in an otherwise horrific campaign so far. 

However, even that was turned into ashes on Thursday when Chennaiyin FC breached their backline thrice in the second-half. One of the most popular adages in football is, a side is most vulnerable when they have just scored a goal. ATK learnt it the hard way and if once wasn’t enough, Chennai have now drilled the lesson into their heads for eternity.

Of course, the injury to Jordi Montel was the key here whose replacement, Ashutosh Mehta, didn’t have the leadership element to hold the backline together leaving Tom Thorpe in a sea of uncertainties. The new recruit, despite making 11 clearances in the game, was found deflecting a ball in as his defence failed to close Calderon down. While the first goal came when last Henrique Sereno was left unmarked from a set-piece, the rest two came from defenders getting surprisingly sloppy, letting Chennai exploit their callousness; something Sheringham will definitely be worried about.  

So, what does Robbie Keane bring to the table?

Thanks to Teddy Sheringham, we got to see a guest appearance of Irish legend Robbie Keane on Thursday, albeit only the last quarter. His buy has been the talk of the town since the ISL auction and his two-week delay was seen by many as the only missing piece in ATK’s puzzle. The defending champions had to rely hugely on set-pieces and flank play with towering strikers like Robin Singh and Njazi Kuqi up front, in his absence.

When the 37-year-old, who has previously played for the likes of Tottenham Hotspur, Liverpool, and Inter Milan, came on the pitch the crowd ensured to let him known their expectations with a thunderous cheer. Though Chennai’s immediate opener had distracted them from his presence, Keane made sure they got their money’s worth in the 89th minute when he squeezed in a reverse pass to Kuqi from a swarm of defenders, who were trying to close him, that eventually led to Kolkata’s second equalizer.

The playmaker had unbelievably moved near the goal for Kuqi to pass for an easy tap in, but the latter chose to blast it in. He will surely force Sheringham to change his tactics now and ATK fans are likely to see more of Zequinha and his pairing in the following games. Keane’s vision is invaluable and if the gaffer uses it well, the defending champions can turn the tables even with two draws and two losses in the first four games.        

The Showstopper

For a game between two extremely defensive sides who have the ability to bore their viewers to death, Marina Arena was surprisingly buzzing on Thursday. While one of the reasons surely was their unthinkable win over Pune City FC in the last game that has suddenly raised hopes among the fans, the other was Jeje Lalpekhlua

The highest Indian goal-scorer of the tournament with 13 in his account was yet to score a goal this season, and the crowd looked strangely convinced it was his day. Every time he had the ball in his feet, the cheers grew louder. He had previously found the net twice against ATK in ISL’s history and was definitely fancying his chances today. 

Though none of his two goals came in a manner the forward would have ideally wanted, his killer approach in front of the net made all the difference. Chennai were building their confidence on half-chances they had created in the first-half, hoping something would click. And when Sereno was denied by the goalie, Jeje was quick to point his head in the perfect direction despite the ball coming at a peculiar position. His second one definitely made him the hero of the game despite it being an easy tap in, as he didn’t falter in in the dying minutes of the game when players were under tremendous pressure.

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