Reduced to ten men, Atletico de Kolkata (ATK) defended dourly to grind out a 1-1 draw against hosts FC Goa in the Indian Super League (ISL) match at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Margao on Wednesday.
Title holders ATK led 1-0 at half time. They were reduced to 10 men when striker Baljit Singh Sahni was given the marching orders in the 62nd minute. Indian midfielder Arata Izumi scored for ATK while Keenan Almeida equalised for the home team. Both teams now have four points from two matches.
ATK made three changes to the starting team that beat Chennaiyin FC in the tournament’s opening match last Saturday. Izumi was named to replace injured marquee man Helder Postiga.
Defenders Arnab Mondal and Rino Anto, away on international duty for India, were replaced by Tiri and Denzil Franco, respectively. Goa, coached by Brazilian legend Zico, named an unchanged line-up that defeated Delhi Dynamos 2-0.
ATK took the lead early when man-of-the-match Arata smartly side-volleyed a Javi Lara cross from the right flank in the 13th minute. After conceding, Goa began to push men forward. They came up with several shots on goal, with Brazilian striker Reinaldo unleashing a majority of them, but it didn’t quite serve their purpose.
Goa gradually began to take control as they tried to spread the ball on the flanks, hoping their nippy Indian wingers Mandar Rao Desai, on the left, and Romeo Franades, on the right, would create goalscoring opportunities.
But their efforts lacked precision. Goa’s urgency to equalise increased after the break.
They came tantalisingly close to scoring in the 48th minute when towering Brazilian marquee defender Lucio rose above everyone to head a centre from the left. But his effort ricocheted off the post. ATK were pushed on the defensive even further when a moment of hot-headedness left them with a man short on the ground.
Striker Baljit fouled defender Gregory Arnolin and then after a brief altercation head-butted him to receive a red card. The red card aided Goa, as their cause was helped by the numerical supremacy.
They poured forward boldly and were rewarded when defender Almeida smashed a strong shot into the net in the 81st minute after being set up by Reinaldo.
Buoyed by the leveller, Goa went for the kill. They even got seven minutes as additional time to score the match-winning goal but couldn’t pull it off.