ISL 2019-20: Halicharan Narzary long-ranger helps Kerala Blasters do double on ATK

After 12 matches, ATK stay third on 21 and will miss coach Antonio Lopez Habas, who was shown the red card in the 92nd minute for a fracas with Kerala Blasters’ assistant-coach Ishfaq Ahmed.
Kerala Blasters celebrate.(ISL)
Kerala Blasters celebrate.(ISL)
Updated on Jan 12, 2020 10:38 PM IST
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Hindustan Times, Kolkata | ByDhiman Sarkar

Halicharan Narzary scored his first goal of the season and helped Kerala Blasters do the double on ATK in ISL 2019-20. After 12 matches, ATK stay third on 21 and will miss coach Antonio Lopez Habas, who was shown the red card in the 92nd minute for a fracas with Kerala Blasters’ assistant-coach Ishfaq Ahmed, against leaders FC Goa at home on Saturday. “Their coach (Eelco Schattorie) provoked Habas by spitting in his direction. Habas shouldn’t have reacted but you know how involved he gets in the game,” said ATK assistant-coach Manuel Perez Cascallan.

“You should ask ATK what happened. From the first minute they were abusing me in Spanish,” said Schattorie.

The scrappy match ended with the teams not shaking hands; ATK players sarcastically applauding referee Ajitkumar Meitei and Roy Krishna having to be stopped from going towards the match officials while they were leaving the Salt Lake stadium pitch.

Krishna had protested in the 94th minute --- over five minutes of stoppage time were given --- after he felt defender Mouhamadou Gning had pushed him inside the penalty area. Meitei penalised Krishna for simulation instead.

Following Sunday’s 1-0 win, Kerala Blasters moved to sixth with 14 points from 12 games. This was their second successive win of the campaign and third overall in a season where they have had five draws. “Too many injuries means we haven’t been able to make the right connections on the pitch,” said Schattorie.

Narzary, 25, made the most of a rare blemish in the ATK defence to fire a 25-yard cannonball that gave goalkeeper Arindam Bhattacharja no chance. “Hali wasn’t good in the first two games but I hope this goal and an assist in the last game (against Hyderabad FC) will help him shake off his frustrations and gain confidence,” said Schattorie.

After Narzary’s 70th minute effort which meant Kerala Blasters haven’t lost to ATK since the 2016 ISL final, the visitors could have buttressed the margin in the 84th minute but Bhattacharja denied Raphael Messi Bouli’s header with a reflex save.

This was Narzary’s second goal in six seasons. It came after a headed clearance from Victor Adeva --- who dropped back from the midfield when Agustin Iniguez was injured in the 64th minute --- fell to Bouli who then got ATK’s defence to take a misstep with a diagonal run that took away one player and freed Narzary.

With time and space and from 25 yards, the wide left player from Kokrajhar produced a shot reminiscent of what David Williams had for ATK against Bengaluru FC here on Christmas Day.

That ATK missed Williams showed because despite pinning down Kerala Blasters, they couldn’t make it count. It led to a number of corner-kicks, two of which came in succession at the end of the first half, one of them producing a goalline save from Bartholomew Ogbeche to deny Balwant Singh.

Soon after, Francisco Gonzalez’s 42nd minute free-kick from around 20 yards on the left of the penalty area --- awarded after Krishna was hemmed in by Mohamad Rakip and Narzary --- didn’t curl enough.

Kerala Blasters tried to draw ATK out of position with their set-piece movements but lack of precision proved their undoing. Twice, poor decisions near ATK’s goal led to counter-attacks that caught the yellow shirts in a bind. With TP Rehenesh unsure in goal with aerial balls and the sidebacks struggling to deal with the pace of Prabir Das and Michael Soosairaj, Kerala Blasters would have been the happier of the teams at the break.

By the hour-mark Rehenesh was warned by Meetei for time wasting. By then, two long balls from Das had Krishna in space --- the first time he couldn’t control the delivery; he did the second time but Singh ballooned over.

Singh got a start because Williams couldn’t and was a peripheral figure leading to his substitution in the 64th minute, the same time when Iniguez pulled up with a leg injury and was replaced by Jayesh Rane.

In attack, Kerala Blasters flickered for a while after the goal. More importantly, they were resolute in defence to deny an ATK that lacked edge in the front third.

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Monday, November 29, 2021