The Indian Super League is finally back and the first fixture is a fan favourite banger. ATK Mohun Bagan face Kerala Blasters. The 2 sides have locked horns on multiple occasions in the past to give us some of the most memorable games. Early fans would know the very first finals of Indian Super League which had the fans at their feet throughout the game.
Kerala Blasters were all over the then Atletico Kolkata in the thrilling final. Kolkata had one chance in the entire duration of 90 minutes and Mohammed Rafi could not do much. He was taken off to bring in a rather unknown Mohammed Rafique. As the clock ticked it’s way into extra time, Atletico Kolkata knew what had to be done.
Sudden pressure in the final third led to Kerala giving away a silly corner with seconds left of the 5 added minutes. Former Liverpool goalkeeper, David James, the marquee signing of Kerala Blaster stood at his near post. In came the ball, Rafique nodded the ball, Kolkata’s first shot on target. Kolkata were the winners.
The Gnashing Rivalry
This was the start of the fiece rivalry between the 2 sides. Despite the varying performance of the teams otherwise, they always bring their A-game for this fixture. The side pulled off another finals encounter in the third edition of the tournament. With the previous final in mind, both sides were ready to give everthing for a replay 2 years later.
Kerala Blaster had the home advantage as the Yellow army cleansed every speck of red in the stadium. Fan hero C.K.Vineeth was at his best, scoring goals at will in the tournament. Mohammed Rafique, Kolkata’s clincher, was now one of the Blasters’ key player. Was history set to repeat itself or were the Blasters on their way to revenge?
As it turned out, the game was intense. This time however, both the sides played their heart out. Both the teams pushed the ball agressively in the final third and hung for their lives in the defensive third. Seconds trickled down slower than ever as the game reached the end of regulation time.
History was not going to repeat itself, it was going to write a better story. The game stood undecided after 120 minutes and the climax would have to be decided in the dreaded penalty shoot-outs. Kerala scored the first while Iain Hume missed to give the Blaster the advantage.
The advantage would go away in the 3rd pair when Elhadji Ndoye would sky his shot inches above the crossbar. As the exciting fixture crept into the final pair of kicks, the teams stood level. Previously a fan-favourite while at the Blaster, Iain Hume missed for Kolkata while Ndoye’s miss held the breath of the yellow army.
Cedric Hengbart went on to agonisingly miss his shot as Jewel Raja tucked in the winner. Kolkata rewrote history in Kerala’s backyard.
ATK Mohun Bagan vs Kerala Blasters : Everything so far
Kolkata have the edge in terms of stats ahead of the fixture. The sides have faced off each other on 14 occasions, 5 going Kolkata’s way and 4 going Blasters’ way. ATK were the better side last season beating the Tuskers on a one goal margin twice (1-0 & 2-3 in the reverse fixture).
All eyes will be on Ivan Vukomanovic’s debut into the league as the manager. He will be against Antonio Habas, the most experinced coach in the history of the league. Will an ingenious tactic beat the experienced head of the Spaniard who took them to the title the very first time?
Kerala Blasters have a fully fit squad while Tiri is doubtful for ATK Mohun Bagan. Another fabulous chapter of ISL history unfolds from 7:30 pm IST tomorrow at the Fatorda Stadium, Goa. The games will be telecasted on the Star Sports Network and streamed on Disney+ Hotstar and Jio TV. Let’s Football!!!
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