ISL: Luis Garcia rises to the occasion as Atletico de Kolkata win

  • Dhiman Sarkar, Hindustan Times, Kolkata
  • Updated: Nov 19, 2014 01:37 IST

The red and whites from Madrid call Atletico de Kolkata their sister club. Atletico de Kolkata's match reports are posted on Atletico Madrid's website and top officials from the Spanish giants regularly come visiting. Given how the season has played out for the Atleticos they seem like siblings joined at the hip.

If you can ignore the levels of competition - after the 3-0 win kicked off Atletico de Kolkata's Indian Super League (ISL) campaign in style, coach Antonio Lopez Habas had said the difference between them and the La Liga champions was 18,000 miles - the difference in formats and history, the similarities aren't so difficult to comprehend.

Both teams have won three of their first four games. And when they lost, it was to a 1-3 scoreline.

Their coaches have faced long touchline bans - Habas is still serving a suspended sentence - and are usually the most animated people in the park. Both also have a high index of players being booked or suspended.

Tuesday's 1-0 win against a defensive NorthEast United FC, whose only real chance was wasted by Seimeinlen Doungel in the 81st minute, was their first in the ISL without a booking.

You could tell how much this win, their first in five games and almost one month, meant. Borja Fernandez, who stole the ball to set up the match-winner, stooped over the artificial turf in prayer, Fikru Lemessa raised his hands in the air and Josemi, whose central defensive partnership with Arnab Mondal is among the talking points of the ISL, thanked the 37,153 that came to the Salt Lake Stadium.

In the hospitality area, the hugs almost made it seem like Atletico de Kolkata had won the tournament.

Barring their lone defeat, this was the worst Atletico de Kolkata played. Their set-pieces were tardy, they were hasty going forward and Luis Garcia made more mispasses in the first half than he perhaps had in the ISL so far.

Lemessa's decision-making was poorer than usual and the ball kept pinging off the head and bodies of NorthEast United because the final pass wouldn't find its target.

When it did deep in second half stoppage time, Arnal Carbo attempted a first-timer that went straight to goalkeeper T Rehenesh.

But by then, Garcia had scored with a delightful header beating his former Spain teammate Joan Capdevila to Joffre's assist.

Garcia is not only a former Atletico Madrid star, he lives close to their training centre and was one of the first imports to be signed by Kolkata. Appropriate therefore that he would help them take a major step towards the semi-finals.

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