ISL 2018: Balwant, Maimouni score as ATK edge out Dynamos for first win
After losing their opening two games of the season, former Indian Super League (ISL) champions ATK notched their first win of the 2018/19 campaign when they rode on goals from Balwant Singh and Noussair El Maimouni to beat Delhi Dynamos 2-1 at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium here on Wednesday.
Having failed to score in the two defeats, ATK were desperate to get the monkey off the back and were quicker off the blocks against Dynamos. Former Dynamos forward Kalu Uche gave the hosts an early warning when he reached the end of a Manuel Lanzarote free kick in the after 18-year-old debutant Komal Thatal was fouled outside the box in the 10th minute. Uche’s header, however, failed to trouble Dynamos goalkeeper Francisco Dorronsoro.
Six minutes later, Uche and Dorronsoro were again in the thick of action when the former created space for a close range shot. His effort, however, was met with a firm left-handed save from Dorronsoro.
The visitors’ persistence paid off in the 20th minute when India forward Balwant received the ball from Lanzarote on the left of the box and curled in an unstoppable shot past Dorronsoro. With national team coach Stephen Constantine in attendance, Balwant couldn’t have hoped for a better time to open his account for the season.
Dynamos struggled to cash in on their superior possession and the ATK backline had a rather comfortable opening half.
In the second half, Dynamos sprang to life and finally managed to threaten the visitors’ goal. The equaliser came in the 54th minute when Rana Gharami headed a corner to Pritam Kotal, who headed in from close range to level the score.
Ten minutes later, Nandhakumar Sekar had a chance to give the hosts the lead when Lallianzuala cut back from the left flank and laid off for the former to shoot. The resulting effort was blazed well over by Nandhakumar.
ATK SUBSTITUTIONS CLICK
Dynamos piled the pressure on ATK but were unable to unlock a resolute defence. At the other end, Balwant himself skied a chance from the left of the box after he found himself with space to shoot following a counter.
ATK coach Steve Coppell rang in the changes and brought on Jayesh Rane and Maimouni in place of Thatal and Uche respectively. The substitutions worked wonders as Rane and Maimouni combined in the 84th minute to put ATK in front again.
Running down the right flank, Rane spotted Maimouni at the edge of the box with no defender to close him down. Rane’s lay-off to the Moroccan was calmly slotted into the left corner by Maimouni.
Behind for the second time in the game, Dynamos could find no way past the ATK backline again.
Dynamos coach Josep Gombau rued his side’s slow start to the game. “We played our game but ATK started well and had more of the ball in the opening minutes. I think we started playing well in the last 15-20 minutes of the first half and we did quite well in the second half,” he said,
His counterpart Coppell lauded his side for keeping calm after conceding the equaliser. “When they equalised, there was a spell of about five minutes when we needed to calm down and try and retain the ball, and we did it well.”
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