KERALA BLASTERS EARNED THEIR most significant victory of the season so far, beating ATK in the Salt Lake Stadium in a heavily contested, feisty match-up in Kolkata last night.
This is the second time KBFC have beaten ATK this season; and the third loss for ATK in ISL 2019-20. For KBFC, this is also significant because they have not won two matches in a row since early 2018.
Head coach Eelco Schattorie put on a masterclass of strategy on display. Kerala Blasters used ATK's well-established attacking tendencies against them by hogging possession and frustrating the oppoents' midfield. The first half saw both side create chances, but the scoreline remained 0-0.
In the second half, the game continued much in the same vein with chances coming mostly from set-pieces until the deadlock was broken by Halicharan Nazri, who found the net from a cracking finish from outside the box.
With the lead, Kerala Blasters went all out to contain the game. ATK pushed hard for the equalizer but were frustrated by KBFC's unbending straegies on and off the field. There was even a moment when the Blasters trapped ATK attackers in a clever set-piece trap that saw six red-and-white players finding themselves offside.
Soon after, in added time, there was a scuffle in the touchline where Manuel Cascallana sneakily aimed a kick at Kerala Blasters assistant coach Ishfaque Ahmed. The referee mistakenly thought it was ATK head coach Antonio Habas who had done the misdeed and sent him off. Later, Cascallana claimed that it was KBFC head coach Eelco Schattorie who had instigated that melee.
In the end, though, KBFC got the last laugh; grabbing all three points thanks to a 0-1 win over ATK.
Watch the highlights of the match right here courtesy ISL's official youtube page...
This result is a massive disruptor in terms of both the race to top of the table and the top four battle.
ATK, who have led the points table for much of the season, now find themselves down to the third place with 21 points from 12 matches; 3 points behind league leaders FC Goa and 1 behind defending champs Bengaluru FC.
Kerala Blasters, meanwhile, have climbed up from 8th to 6th place thanks to their two back to back wins. They are now on 14 points from 12 matches; half of their points in the campaign coming from the last 3 games. But more importantly, they are 4 points behind fourth placed Odisha FC, and have a glimmer of hope for competing for the top four once again.
Both ATK and KBFC have tough outings coming up next. ATK will host top placed FC Goa next and KBFC will travel to Jamshedpur to take on the Red Miners. How they do in those matches will go a long way to determine where they end up at the end of the league stage.