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Referee trying to stop fight of ask player and Manuel Lanzarote Bruno of FC Goa during match 37 of the Hero Indian Super League between ATK and FC Goa held at the Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan Stadium, Kolkata, India on the 3rd January 2018 Photo by: Saikat Das / ISL / SPORTZPICS

Indian Football

Analysis | Three Things We Learned: ATK 1-1 FC Goa

Arinjay Ghosh discusses three talking points about the Indian Super League game that finished ATK 1-1 FC Goa

FC Goa found a contentious equaliser to cancel out Robbie Keane’s early strike in a game that started on 3rd January and ended on the 4th. The stalemate pushed Goa back into the top four with a game in hand over the teams above them, while ATK remained rooted to the seventh spot. Here are the primary talking points from a game clouded by a plane that did not take off.

FC Goa shows real character

Much of the build up to the game surrounded FC Goa’s hassle in getting to the city. The match was initially scheduled for New Year’s Eve but due to security reasons among others, it had to be postponed to the third day of 2018. Coach Sergio Lobera expressed his displeasure about the zero-hour changes, as in his opinion, such things adversely affect the players’ preparation both psychologically and physically. The coach’s plans were further hampered as, first a technical impediment on 2nd January and then an unfortunate fire on the runway, meant that the team could only arrive at the Kolkata airport at 9:15PM. Eager to get on with the game despite the hurdles, the players completed the warm-up in their travel attire while their kits contrived a delayed entry into the venue. The game finally kicked off nearly three hours behind schedule, at 10:45PM.

Clearly jolted by the off-field incidents, the visitors made a shaky start to the game conceding a goal as early as the 4th minute. They could have fallen further behind moments later had Ryan Taylor capitalized on a defensive lapse from Mohamed Ali. This was followed by a tentative spill from custodian Laxmikant Kattimani off a seemingly timid effort. It looked like the players were clearly not ready to play the game and Goa would be heading towards successive defeats. 

But the away side displayed commendable fight as they slowly crawled back into the game. Their morale received an upshot in the 24th minute when Ferran Corominas fortuitously equalised following a poor call from the referee. The Spaniard consolidated his position on the top of the scorers’ chart moving to 9 goals from 7 games.

The narrative of this game should highlight, in bold, FC Goa’s strength of character. Putting aside the ordeals of the past few days, the players showed immense professionalism, fight and fitness to not only turn up for the game but also come out of it as the better side. In fact, the Gaurs could have had more than the solitary point had they been more clinical in front of goal.

Referee had a forgettable game

It can be unanimously agreed upon that when the referee becomes a talking point, it means that he had a pretty forgettable outing. Officiating match number 37 at the Vivekananda Yuva Bharati Krirangan, referee CR Srikrishna made no friends in either camp as he made some dubious calls throughout the duration of the ninety minutes.

The travails of the referee began as early as the 5th minute when he waved away fervent penalty claims from the Goan players for a challenge on Lanzarote by Keegan Pereira. Three minutes later he failed to spot an illegitimate interception by Hitesh Sharma from an FC Goa freekick. This led to an irate group of Goan players charging at the referee. In fact, for the entirety of the game, the referee could not ensure the mandatory ten yards of separation between the dead ball and the opposition’s human wall. The match itself was a niggly affair and at times promised to get out of hand. This was largely because the referee was initially lenient and eventually failed to assert his authority over the players. He frequently allowed players to get into his face and aggressively challenge his calls, typically failing to stop players from kicking out at each other and engaging in unnecessary afters. The fact that the players were overworked due to travel and waiting served the referee favourably meaning the altercations did not blow up and both teams could finish with their complete quota of eleven men.  

Apart from these continual shortcomings, Srikrishna made two major faux pas. The first of the two came in the 24th minute when he quite strangely played advantage to FC Goa overlooking his assistant’s raised flag for a foul against the visitors. This directly led to Goa’s equalizer causing the ATK players to be outraged. The incident happened right in front of the assistant referee who flagged for an ATK freekick; the referee baffled the static ATK players by signalling an advantage even though the ball wasn’t in their possession following the infringement. The second blunder came ten minutes later when he signalled for a freekick instead of penalty despite Brandon being hacked down well inside the box by Prabir Das. The ATK right back was already on a yellow card for an attempted punch followed by a kick out at Narayan Das. He was extremely lucky to escape without a sending off on both occasions. Srikrishna turned down two more penalty claims, both from ATK, later in the match leaving both sides unhappy at the final whistle.

ATK and a game of two halves

The 19000 loyal supporters who stayed back well past midnight witnessed a clear dichotomy in ATK’s performance on either side of the first thirty minutes. The home side started off at searing pace scoring as early as the 4th minute through Keane and creating a couple of golden opportunities. Ryan Taylor found himself through on goal in the tenth minute; with the keeper at his mercy and Keane beside him for a tap in, he somehow managed to hit it straight at the grateful Kattimani.

ATK made a welcome switch in their style of play as they played a lot of crisp, ground passes in the early stages of the game. Keane was at the centre of most good things as he often played as a false nine falling deep to build up attacks for the three attackers in ATK’s 4-2-3-1. There was visible improvement in the communication between their double pivot as well. But they seemed to lose the plot following FC Goa’s equaliser. That not only helped the away team settle down but the highly dubious decision that resulted in the goal clearly affected the ATK players. Prabir Das especially lost his head and had to be taken off at half time to prevent ATK from going down to ten men.

Teddy Sheringham’s unremitting ill fate with injuries further handicapped ATK as he had to replace Anwar Ali due to a muscular strain which meant that half of his backline had been altered by half time. This resulted in two crucial partnerships interrupted midway into the match and three players operating in unfamiliar positions –  Ryan Taylor playing at right back, Ashutosh Mehta in central defence and Rupert Nongrum as one half of the double pivot. Consequently, ATK lost the midfield to Goa who controlled the ball and the game forcing Debjit to make a sheaf of impressive saves. The home side’s only apparent plan was to leverage Ryan Taylor’s crossing competency, but their laboured build-up posed little threat to the Goan defence.

Even as they pack their bags for Bengaluru next, with each passing game ATK are leaving themselves with a steeper mountain to ascend in order to hold on to the tag of defending champions.

(Featured image via ISL)

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Arinjay Ghosh

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