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Indian Super League: Dimitar Berbatov on target as ATK hold Kerala Blasters

Dimitar Berbabov scores his first goal of the season as ATK held Kerala Blasters 2-2 in their Indian Super League (ISL) encounter in Kolkata on Thursday.

football Updated: Feb 09, 2018 15:59 IST
Dhiman Sarkar
Dhiman Sarkar
Hindustan Times, Kolkata
Indian Super League,Dimitar Berbabov,ATK
ATK held Kerala Blasters to a 2-2 draw in the Indian Super League (ISL) match in Kolkata on Thursday.(ISL)

Dimitar Berbatov left his stamp on the Salt Lake stadium with a goal worthy of someone who has led Bulgaria and been part of many starry, starry nights at Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United.

It was his first goal of the competition in seven games and even if the 37-year-old was to never set foot at a football cathedral where Lionel Messi led Argentina and Alessandro del Piero played a competitive game, his 55th minute effort will stay etched in the memory of the 4292 that fetched up to see this clash between twice champions and two-time runners-up.

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Jackichand Singh’s free-kick from the left was relayed to Berbatov by Nemanja Lakic Pesic and from the top of the 18-yard-box he took two steps and volleyed home, the execution being a perfect example of how to seamlessly essay such a screamer and send it to the bottom right corner. Having struggled with injury problems through the ISL season, this was Berbatov’s first game in five rounds.

Given how ATK’s campaign has unravelled this time, it seemed Berbatov’s goal would help Kerala Blasters break into the top four after Ryan Taylor (38th) had cancelled Gudjon Baldvinsson’s header five minutes earlier; both goals having come from deflections. But Tom Thorpe helped ATK come back again with a smart header off a Taylor delivery to make it 2-2.

After their first point in five games, the defending champions ATK moved to 13 points from 14 games. Interim coach Ashley Westwood’s first point from an ISL game also meant that Kerala Blasters ended their 15th match on 21 points.

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Martin Paterson came close twice for ATK but after those early misses, the game meandered aimlessly till Baldvinsson caught Keegan Pereira ball watching after Prasanth K floated one from the left after a combined move. The Iceland forward’s header grazed ATK Spanish centre-back Jordi Figueras’ back and went in giving goalie Soram Poirei no chance. For the second time in as many games, Figueras contributed to a goal he wouldn’t want to even in his dreams.

It was a delayed reaction from Berbatov to a prompt from Milan Singh that gave Taylor space to tee a shot which changed direction after hitting Lalruatthara, one of the three centre-backs for the visiting team, and get ATK back in the game.

ATK replaced Figueras with Rupert Nongrum at half-time and that meant reshuffling the back-four with Ashutosh Mehta switching to left-back and Pereira moving in. Before they could settle, Kerala Blasters could have settled the issue but Courag Pekuson delayed and Thorpe cleared. Just as Thorpe did deep in second half stoppage time, this time from the goalline.

First Published: Feb 08, 2018 23:11 IST