Iain Hume wrote on Instagram on Tuesday afternoon that Pele was why he fell in love with football. It fit therefore that in presence of the legend and against his former team, Hume would produce another industrious performance that gave Atletico de Kolkata a two-goal lead before Kerala Blasters scared them with a late surge.
If Juan Sanchez had erred in leaving his line to let Chris Dagnall score, the Spaniard was also responsible for three superb reflex saves that denied Dagnall twice and Sanchez Watt and took the defending champions to the top of the standings.
By then Kerala Blasters had targeted Augustine Fernandes in central defence and things could have been different had they not ended with 10 men after Mehtab Hossain saw his second booking in the 89th minute. Such is the fervour of the ISL that 61,237 cheered the East Bengal medio off the pitch.
Influencing the red stripes’ march is a man who has played every minute of ISL2 so far and 16 of the 17 on way to the first title. Barely had the celebrations ended last year, defensive midfielder Borja Fernandez was chasing Lionel Messi having signed up for Eibar.
Fernandez, 34, mixes Atletico de Kolkata’s mentor club Atletico Madrid coach Diego Simeone’s mantra of zero compromise on effort and the self-belief Eibar players must have had following successive promotions into the top tier of Spanish football. He was Atletico de Kolkata’s first signing. A former Real Madrid player, Fernandez also has played over 200 games in the La Liga.
Fernandez would definitely not be the idea of No. 10 as envisaged by the greatest to wear that shirt in football. Pele exchanged high fives with the home team’s co-owner Sanjeev Goenka when Izumi Arata again popped up like a genie to score after Hume had turned Bruno Perone this way and that. Seconds earlier, Pele had reacted by raising arms as Javier Lara’s drive thudded into the horizontal.
By the time Lara scored after turning Perone the wrong way, Pele had left so he was spared seeing a compatriot being embarrassed again. Again it was Hume who had provided the assist.
In neither goal was Fernandez involved but no one influences how Atletico de Kolkata play more. He is usually the first to break out, building play and when the team loses possession, Fernandez is the shield for the back four.
Last year, Fernandez scored with a screamer in the ISL’s first game. This time, in Atletico de Kolkata’s first game at home, he tried a cheeky chip after a sharp diagonal run in the fourth minute of first-half added time.
His coach Antonio Lopez Habas stresses on the collective and as his representative on the pitch Fernandez did just that for a side missing a string of first team regulars.
The lot of defensive midfielders are usually reviled; think Dunga. But they are crucial to the teams winning championships. Think Dunga again. No wonder, Fernandez wears the armband for Atletico de Kolkata.