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Wednesday, Sep 18, 2019

ISL 2017-18: ATK need to be cleverer around the box, says Robbie Keane

Robbie Keane scored his maiden goal in the Indian Super League (ISL) 2017-18 as ATK defeated Delhi Dynamos on Sunday.

football Updated: Dec 24, 2017 12:01 IST
Dhiman Sarkar
Dhiman Sarkar
Hindustan Times, Kolkata
Robbie Keane (C) celebrates after scoring for ATK against Delhi Dynamos in their Indian Super League (ISL) encounter.
Robbie Keane (C) celebrates after scoring for ATK against Delhi Dynamos in their Indian Super League (ISL) encounter.(ISL)

Whether Robbie Keane’s moment of magic has helped ATK turn the corner in Indian Super League (ISL) 2017-18 will be known only next year but it helped the defending champions grind out their second successive win, 1-0 against Delhi Dynamos in Kolkata on Saturday. And it helped Keane go home for Christmas in a merrier mood.

Keane, 37, said he was 85% fit going into ATK’s sixth game. This was his second start and third match in the competitive football since leaving LA Galaxy in November 2016.

He was involved in two ATK moves that could have led to them forging ahead in the first half. Then it came together in the 78th minute when Keane fired into the left corner after showing the kind of close control and turning that made him Ireland’s all-time highest goalscorer.

READ | Robbie Keane breaks drought with solo goal as ATK beat Delhi Dynamos

“This is what you get when you leave a player such as Robbie Keane. We need to be a lot sharper at the back,” said India right-back Pritam Kotal who plays for Delhi Dynamos.

Keane’s celebration --- a somersault and a vault before standing up and clasping palms for a ‘namaste’ --- was as spectacular as the match winner. But Keane, adjudged the Major League Soccer’s Most Valuable Player in 2014 with 104 goals in six seasons with LA Galaxy, said such a show of delight is normal for him.

“That’s how I like to celebrate. It felt good to have scored today, that is my job but I was injured for a while. I am perhaps 85% fit now but I will get better.” That would sound like good news for the defending ISL champions.

The team too would get better as players get to know each other, said the ATK skipper. “We are still doing that; Ryan (Taylor), for instance came here recently (his first match was away win to Mumbai City FC in the last round). There is a lot of room for improvement in all areas. We need to be more patient with the ball, keep it and be cleverer around the box.”

Instead of playing Keane behind a targetman such as Robin Singh – who wasn’t even on the substitutes’ list --- the Dubliner had to play alone up the park in ATK’s sixth game.

“That is how the manager (Teddy Sheringam) lined up and it meant no Robin (Singh) or (Njazi) Kuqi tonight. And since Hitesh Sharma isn’t a typical No.9, I played out of position but that is something you need to do for your team,” said Keane.

The former Ireland skipper said ATK’s entire foreign players’ contingent is going into a short Christmas break to be with their families. ATK will hope the break does them good before taking on FC Goa here on January 3.

First Published: Dec 24, 2017 10:30 IST