Atletico De Kolkata vs. Chennaiyin FC Review

The Clash of the Champions ends in an eventful and exciting draw

I’m very curious about a particular statistic about the Indian Super League. Of all the goals scored in the three ISL seasons, I want to know if the vast majority of them were scored in second halves. It’s easy enough to do. All one needs to do is check the scores in all the matches. I am much too lazy to bother. Are any of you interested in doing this? If you watched Atletico De Kolkata vs. Chennaiyin FC, then you know why I want to know.

This match ended in a 2 – 2 draw between the 2014 and 2015 champions. It should ideally have been a home victory but I think the change in stadiums for Kolkata caused some disconnect for its fans. They were mostly quiet throughout the match. Even when Atletico De Kolkata took the lead in the game, I didn’t notice any marked difference from the crowd w.r.t. to noise. Atletico De Kolkata were playing at the Rabindra Sarobar Stadium, as opposed to the Salt Lake Stadium which is being prepped for the Under17 World Cup.

Chennaiyin FC took full advantage of the apathy from the Atletico De Kolkata fans by bullying their players around. It was a nostalgic match for me, albeit in reverse. I remember Atletico bullying people and being overly physical in 2014. This time it was Chennaiyin being overly physical and Atletico players on the receiving end. It is to both teams’ merit that they managed to get a draw from the match because both of them had leads at different moments of time.

In terms of players, Sameehg Doutie stood out for me, finishing the game with one goal and one assist. Keep an eye on this kid, he can be good if he chooses to eat some protein and lift some weights.

Team News for Atletico De Kolkata and Chennaiyin FC

ATK Stadium

The team news for this one is interesting from the perspective of personnel as well as formation. Atletico de Kolkata chose a flexible formation i.e. 4411 or 442 with Iain Hume operating in the hole behind Helder Postiga. Postiga had a smashing start to the last season but his great start was brought to a gut wrenching halt by injury. He would be looking to avoid the same this time out – the injury not the goals, in case you were confused.

Jose Francisco Molina made an interesting decision by going with the Indian Debjit Majumdar instead of the Spanish Dani Mallo. This could be because of the ISL rule requirement of having at least five Indian players in the team. If Molina had gone with Mallo, he would’ve had to put an Indian in the midfield. It was probably a strategic decision. I’m inclined to trust Molina in his choice of goalkeeper simply because he was a keeper when he used to play. ATK were also without Pablo Gallardo and Ofentse Nato but put Sameehg Doutie (someone I wanted to see very much) into the middle. I was also excited about the combination of Hume and Postiga

I felt that Chennaiyin FC went with a defensive formation. Their formation looked like a 433/451 to me and it was understandable from Marco Materazzi. You see, Chennaiyin neither have Mendoza nor Elano – both of whom were their attacking lynchpins in the last two seasons. Duwayne Kerr was debuting for Chennaiyin. In central defence, Chennaiyin had two pillars of excellence in the form of Bernard Mendy and John Arne Riise. The question was who will start in the centre. My money was on David Succi with Jeje Lalpekhlua and Jayesh Rane on the wings.

Chennaiyin Penetrate More; Atletico De Kolkata Have Crisper Passes

atletico-de-kolkata-vs-chennaiyin-fc-ftThe first half began with Chennaiyin FC in the ascendancy. Their dominance was largely due to Atletico De Kolkata’s defensive strategy of high press. The problem for ATK was that Chennaiyin managed to play through their high press.

The issue was that Atletico De Kolkata weren’t pressing as a team. Their front line i.e. Hume and co was pushing but their defensive minded players weren’t pushing. Thus, Chennaiyin players were getting some joy with longer passes.

During this domination, Chennaiyin had the first and the best chance of the half to score. It came from a free kick that was taken by Hans Mulder. Mulder laid the ball off from the direct free kick to his left for a Riise wallop. The ball deflected off the wall, smacked against the underside of the crossbar, and bounced out.

The initial periods of the first half was typified by two things – the fact that Hume doesn’t age and the fact that Baljit Sahni likes to dive and con the referee. I’m sure that you can tell that I don’t condone the latter and respect the former.

Atletico De Kolkata, for some reason, didn’t produce as many chances as they should’ve despite the fact that their passing was crisper than Chennaiyin’s. This was probably because they didn’t use width enough even though their wing-play was really effective. By the latter part of the first half, the game devolved (or evolved depending upon your inclinations) into a midfield battle. Atletico De Kolkata’s best chance also came from a wickedly whipped free kick taken by Javier Lara Grande. It was a shot cum cross that gave Kerr some trouble.

Atletico De Kolkata Open Scoring

atletico-sameehg-doutieThe second half began with a glaring mistake from Bernard Mendy as he fell over while trying to stop Postiga. The mistake went unpunished, though, because Riise mopped up.

Riise’s free kick continued to cause trouble for Atletico De Kolkata as Debjit Majumdar was forced to flap away an acute in swinging free kick. The free kick was promptly followed by counter attack from Atletico where Lara was set up by Hume only for the latter to deliver a tame shot directly at Kerr.

Just when everyone started thinking that this would be a dead, dull, and dreary 0 – 0 draw, Doutie popped up with a goal. Postiga ran with the ball to the left of the centre circle, drew all the defenders and spread a lofted ball to the right at the feet of the onrushing Doutie. Doutie’s first touch to take the ball down was butter on a pan.

The beauty of the first touch allowed him the time to take a second and set the ball up for a nice one on one with the keeper. The one on one was a result of the left back, Nalappan Mohanraj, tucking in for the missing centre back. The real culprit for the goal, however, was Jayesh Rane who failed to support his left back. Needless to say, Doutie finished with aplomb at 59 minutes. Atletico De Kolkata 1 – 0 Chennaiyin FC

Chennaiyin Equalise; Promptly Take the Lead

Chennaiyin Jayesh RaneAtletico De Kolkata’s lead didn’t last for long, though. Chennaiyin FC equalised via the earlier culprit Jayesh Rane at 66 minutes. Rane made up for his mistake by breaking the offside trap and catching a scuffed shot from Jeje Lalpekhlua. Even though he was facing the keeper, there was still a lot to do. He did all that was required by controlling the ball and dinking it over the onrushing Majumdar. Atletico De Kolkata 1 – 1 Chennaiyin FC

Chennaiyin upped the ante four minutes later by taking the lead through a speculative shot that deflected into the net. Hans Mulder took the shot from well out. It didn’t even have enough power on it but it still deflected off Jose Luis Espinosa Arroyo or “Titi”, wrong-footed Majumdar and sneaked inside the post. Atletico De Kolkata 1 – 2 Chennaiyin FC

Atletico De Kolkata Get Loads of Chances; Convert One

atletico-iain-humeGoing a goal down, lit up a fire in Atletico players’ you know where. They fashioned a chance for Postiga only for their marquee player to direct his free header straight at Kerr from a Doutie free kick. Postiga’s chance was followed by a chance for Hume. Hume was found on the far post by a cross but he could only flash his shot on the wrong side of the far post.

Hume even got a second chance. This time it was an absolutely free header from the same position. He was so free that he got confused by it. He neither shot at the goal nor set up his partner in crime, Postiga. His cushioned header was too close to Kerr.

Dudu, who had come on earlier, was the one to get a clear cut chance next. He met a cross from the left flank at point blank range only to loop his shot over. It was a position from where it would’ve been easier to score. That miss would prove to be very costly for Chennaiyin as Atletico De Kolkata would equalise through a Hume penalty. The penalty was won by Doutie as he was bundled over in the box on 84 minutes by Jerry L’Rinzuala. Hume converted the penalty by putting it into the keeper’s right hand bottom corner. Atletico De Kolkata 2 – 2 Chennaiyin FC



Northeast United FC vs. Kerala Blasters FC: KBFC’s Master Class!

Northeast United FC vs. Kerala Blasters FC

Kerala Blasters FC are bottom of the table as I predicted before the season began. I feel no sense of accomplishment in that. What I do feel proud about is Northeast United FC and how they’re on track to proving me right. I suggested in the beginning that Northeast United FC have the potential to surprise everything this time out and that is panning out to be, more or less, true.

Kerala Blasters FC are bottom of the table and on the way they’ve been playing, I feel that that is a perfectly fine place for them to be. On paper, Northeast United FC may be overachieving but it’s not a surprise for anyone who is aware of what Cesar Farias has done in the past.

It should also not be a surprise for seasoned football watchers because teams that rely on internal solutions and work with minimal funds tend to take time to gel. Farias, according to me, is the perfect man to do that for Northeast United FC.

A win would put Northeast United FC, would you believe it, top of the Indian Super League 2015 table. They’re at home so I expect them to do the job too!

Team News for Northeast United FC & Kerala Blasters FC

Northeast United FC - Ceras FariasNortheast United FC have tempered and defanged many problems in this season. They lost a number of players which caused their early season form to be woeful. However, they have recovered since then earning 13 points out of the last 18 that they’ve contended for.

Along the way, they’ve done the double on two of the four semi-finalists of the last season – Chennaiyin FC and Atletico De Kolkata.

That’s no mean feat. I don’t need to tell you Kerala Blasters FC’s form in the last eight games. They’ve only won once in that time! So, let’s not dwell on someone else’s misery and move on to team news.

Farias chose to make huge changes to the team that beat Chennaiyin FC last time out. He replaced no less than seven players in his team. However, the changes only brought in critical players into the starting line-up because last time out, Farias chose to rest them. In came the defenders Aibor Khongjee, Robin Gurung, and Cedric Hengbart for Reagan Singh and Raju Yumnam with Andre Bikey being deployed in the midfield.

In midfield, Farias chose Alen Deory and Silas over Bruno Herrero Arias and Siam Hanghal. He also gave starts to Nicolas Velez and Sanju Pradhan while Francis Dadzie, Diomansy Kamara, and Seityasen Singh all got benched.

Kerala Blasters FC saw four changes in the form of Antonio German, Sandesh Jhingan, Pulga, and Cavin Lobo starting in place of Mohammed Rafi, Bruno Perone, Ishfaq Ahmed, and the injured Sanchez Watt.

Kerala Blasters FC with a Smashing Beginning

Kerala Blasters FC - Chris DagnallThe first half saw a lightening start from the southerners who scored in the first minute. They pressed Northeast United FC back like demons and rattled them to no end.

Northeast United FC lost the ball which went to German who squared the ball on the floor for Chris Dagnall to pummel into the net under pressure. Northeast United FC 0 – 1 Kerala Blasters FC

It was a very good beginning not only for Kerala Blasters FC but also for the game because Northeast United FC were playing at home. This would ensure that they didn’t sit back, not that that was a danger. Still, this would result in the game becoming more open, attacking, and end to end.

Northeast United FC Fight Back

Northeast United FC - Cedric HengbartNortheast United FC didn’t let their heads drop though. They fought back like they meant it.

They attacked Kerala Blasters FC with nonstop pressing and accomplished wing play.

Velez was a constant thorn in Kerala Blasters’ side along with Simao.

It was he who won a freekick on the right flank when Jhingan shoulder barged him too strongly. The resulting cross fell on to Hengbart’s head, five yards out from the goal. Hengbart headed the ball into the ground straight at the keeper, Stephen Bywater. Bywater parried and the spilt effort was skied by Hengbart.

Kerala Blasters FC Double Their Lead

Kerala Blasters FC - Cavin LoboDespite being put under insane amounts of pressure, Kerala Blasters FC doubled their lead in the 21st minute.

It was a simple goal that came through Lobo.

Lobo broke the Northeast United FC offside trap well and his excellence was met with Josu’s excellence in the way of a lofted ball.

Lobo took the ball down well and finished under the keeper into the far corner. Northeast United FC 0 – 2 Kerala Blasters FC

The goal came from nothing. It was just sorry defending from Northeast United FC. They were keeping a high line throughout the game and it turned out to be their primary problem with this goal.

Kerala Blasters FC Fashion More Chances

Kerala Blasters FC - JosuNortheast United FC would continue attacking but in the last few minutes of the half, Kerala Blasters FC fashioned some really great chances to extend their lead. First they were sliced open by Chris Dagnall dribbling and crossing skills and then it was a header from Peter Ramage that caused them problems.

That was followed by a peach of a shot from Josu from outside the box. The ball was passed to him from the left flank and he hit the shot first time without breaking his stride.

Effort but No Product from Northeast United FC in Second Half

Northeast United FC - SimaoThe second half began in a tepid manner. Northeast United FC tried to make things happen with a substitution but it didn’t have the effect that Farias probably intended.

Kerala Blasters FC were playing well knocking the ball about and keeping the home team and home fans quiet. However, things did heat up with a melee between the two teams fuelled by a penalty claim by Simao.

The claim was genuine but it was a call that could’ve gone either way. Referee chose to favour Kerala Blasters FC which incensed Northeast United FC players to no end.

Kerala Blasters FC Add Two More Goals

Kerala Blasters FC - Antonio GermanNortheast United FC looked toothless throughout the second half. The only time they looked even a little bit effective was when Diomansy Kamara came on and dribbled the ball.

Even Kamara’s efforts would mean nothing because Kerala Blasters FC would add two more goals to their tally. The first of these came from German after Josu dribbled to the by-line only to pull the ball back.

German would receive the ball and caress it with their left foot into the far bottom corner. Northeast United FC 0 – 3 Kerala Blasters FC

That goal was immediately followed by Kerala Blasters FC’s fourth which was scored solely on the shoulders of Dagnall. Dagnall dribbled the ball a good distance and was pushed wider and wider by Northeast United FC defence. He was unfazed though because he smashed the ball into the right bottom corner from a left sided acute angle. Northeast United FC 0 – 4 Kerala Blasters FC

Northeast United FC players were so dejected that the rest of the second half went by in a doze. There was nothing to report for the last ten minutes up until the 91st minute. Velez scored his 4th goal of the season with a wicked left footed shot that was hit so hard that the keeper didn’t even see it. Northeast United FC 1 – 4 Kerala Blasters FC

Tactical Analysis:  First Impressions + Projections

This was, no doubt, a silly game for Northeast United FC fans. The highlanders were strangely pathetic in this game. It wasn’t even that Farias made a miscalculation or Terry Phelan came up with a rabbit out of the hat.

This loss was all down to the Northeast United FC players having a game to forget. They were slow, uncommitted, and uninterested in the game. If someone was to tell me that all the Northeast United FC players went out to party last night and guzzled three bottles of whiskey each, I wouldn’t be surprised because they were playing like they had a splitting hangover.

If I was to pick some tactical flaw from Farias, I would go with the Northeast United FC penchant for a high defensive line. Lobo especially had a lot of joy with that high defensive line. He broke the offside trap consistently in the game with his channel running.

A high defensive line only works when you have a lot of possession or if the opponent players are slow. It doesn’t work when you give the opponents enough time to pick out a pass. The Lobo goal was like a still life painting – that’s how static the Northeast United FC defenders were.

Bikey in midfield, according to me, was a slight mistake as well although it wasn’t responsible for the loss. Bikey just isn’t mobile enough to play the role of the ball winner which is what he was put there for. Granted, he was physical but he was too slumberous to use that strength.

Also worth pointing is that Simao had a forgettable game. He forgot to show up for this game to the detriment of his team.



Kerala Blasters FC vs. Chennaiyin FC Review

Kerala Blasters FC vs. Chennaiyin FC

A Topsy-Turvy Game between KBFC and CFC

So, five games without a win and four straight losses, Kerala Blasters FC are proving all my predictions true. What’s more is that they’ve actually ditched their manager, Peter Taylor. I didn’t go as far as suggesting that Taylor will be sacked in the article linked above but I have to say that I’m not that surprised. Oh and by the way, I don’t care what Kerala Blasters FC’s release says about “mutual agreement”, Peter Taylor was sacked!

At the same time, I don’t think his removal will make any big difference in Kerala Blasters FC’s future performances. They will continue to suck and suck royally like they’ve been doing. Why? Simply because their squad isn’t strong enough or balanced enough. Squad building was to be done before the Indian Super League 2015 season began. It’s too late now.

Chennaiyin FC aren’t in the best form either. They’ve only won 3 of their last 6 games which shows that they can be quite inconsistent. Kerala Blasters FC would be looking to leverage that in some way.

Team News for Kerala Blasters FC and Chennaiyin FC

Kerala Blasters FC - Sanchez WattEven though I’ve rung the bell of doom for Kerala Blasters FC, the team news makes me feel very positive. Trevor Morgan, the interim caretaker manager, chose to deploy Sanchez Watt and Chris Dagnall both.

In addition to these two strikers, Morgan even put in the high flying Mohammed Rafi as the third striker. These are moves that I fully support.

The three man strike force of Kerala Blasters FC showed intent and a hint of Kerala Blasters FC’s strategy which I believed would be counterattacking football.

Essentially, Kerala Blasters FC made 3 changes in their first team with the entry of Watt, Saumik, and Bruno Perone for Josu Currias, Marcus Williams, and Shankar Sampingiraj.

More than the change in personnel, their change in strategy was interesting to watch. Chennaiyin FC, like Kerala Blasters FC, made 3 changes to their first team. They brought in Jeje Lalpekhlua, Sena Ralte, and Alessandro Potenza for Dhanachandra Singh, Bernard Mendy, and Jayesh Rane. Chennaiyin FC would continue to rely on the league’s best front strike pairing of Elano and Stiven Mendoza.

The defining element of this match will be how well Kerala Blasters FC’s midfield performs against Chennaiyin’s midfield. The midfield battles will determine how effective Elano and Mendoza are going to be so I expected Kerala Blasters to really try to get between the Chennaiyin midfielders. At the same time, team selection showed that Kerala Blasters FC will sit back and try to counter with pace. I was curious to see if that worked out for them.

End To End Stuff In the First Half Followed By a Steady Period

Chennaiyin FC - Mehrajuddin WadooThe first half began in a very dynamic manner. Both teams looked fired up and determined to attack. It was end to end stuff. Every time one team would attack, they would camp in the opposition half for a good one minute before the other team would get the ball back and return the favour. It bode well for the entertainment value of the match.

The first real chance fell to Kerala Blasters FC when Dagnall broke through the offside trap with a scoop finding him from the midfield. He crossed the ball to Watt but his shot was blocked crucially by Mehrajuddin Wadoo.

By the 15th minute, the early first half intensity had dropped a little with both teams settling down into a steady rhythm. It was dull for the next 15 minutes with both teams working hard.

The second great chance of the first half also fell to Kerala Blasters FC. From the outside of his boot, Joao Coimbra dropped a long ball in the middle, behind the two Chennaiyin central defenders. Dagnall had run that channel, he collected the ball but couldn’t finish as Karanjit Singh smothered the ball.

Chennaiyin FC Take the Lead

Chennaiyin FC - ElanoDespite the fact that Kerala Blasters FC had the better chances of the first half, it would be Chennaiyin FC who would take the lead.

They would do so through a soft penalty given away by Sandesh Jhingan.

The ball was tossed in from the right flank, Mendoza backed into Jhingan whose clumsiness caused him and Mendoza both to fall over. It was very weak, cheap, and soft. Elano stepped up to take the penalty and stroked the ball in with sheer nonchalance. Kerala Blasters FC 0 – 1 Chennaiyin FC

Another Chance for Kerala Blasters FC Goes Begging

Kerala Blasters FC - Chris DagnallIn the 37th minute, Chennaiyin FC’s Mendoza fashioned a wonderful chance for himself. His shot on the turn, however, was parried by the Kerala Blasters FC’s keeper, Stephen Bywater.

Soon after, an injury to Coimbra saw him being replaced by Josu.

KBFC would get another chance in the last minute of the half. Rafi broke the offside trap to receive a scooped ball on his head. Rafi got to the ball first even though the Chennaiyin keeper was rushing in. Unfortunately, he couldn’t guide the header into the gaping goal.

KBFC Strike Back Within 15 Seconds into the 2nd Half

Kerala Blasters FC - Saumik DeyWithin 15 seconds of the second half, Kerala Blasters FC were level. The goal was founded on a peach of a cross from the KBFC left flank. The cross was orgasmic.

The ball came in fast, curling and perfectly placed from Saumik Dey (what a selection by Morgan!). In the box, Chris Dagnall was darting in between the two Chennaiyin defenders. He dived in to finish the move. Kerala Blasters FC 1 – 1 Chennaiyin FC

Chennaiyin FC almost struck back instead of reeling from the goal. The ball was laid off to Mendoza on the edge of the KBFC box. His snapshot from the outside of his right boot just curved wide.

Kerala Blasters Miss a Penalty But Dominate Nonetheless

Chennaiyin FC - Karanjit SinghIn the 50th minute, the game would almost turn on its head as Kerala Blasters FC won a penalty virtually as soft as the one that Chennaiyin FC had one.

The penalty was won by Peter Ramage who fell to the ground because of soft contact from Mailson Alves.

The penalty was taken and wasted by Josu as Karanjit Singh saved the shot.

Kerala Blasters FC would get another chance a few minutes later. The chance came from a freekick delivery from the KBFC right flank. Peter Ramage almost got to the ball. Even when he didn’t the ball could’ve gone in if Singh hadn’t deflected it away.

Chennaiyin FC under the Cosh

Kerala Blasters FC - Josu CurriasIn the 61st minute, KBFC got another chance from another freekick from Josu.

The freekick was perfect and fell to Dagnall who stooped to guide it. The header was aimed well but Karanjit Singh was equal to it.

The parried header then fell to Jhingan who couldn’t direct it goalwards.

Chennaiyin FC were definitely under the cosh at this moment. In fact, they were having trouble getting out of their half. What’s more is that they were losing their composure by committing fouls and earning yellow cards.

Chennaiyin FC would create one great chance though. It was a shot from outside the box that had Bywater fully stretched in what was an acrobatic save.

Kerala Blasters FC Get a Player Sent Off

Kerala Blasters FC - Bruno PeroneKerala Blasters FC then lost the plot for some reason. The red card was awarded to Bruno Perone for a foul on Mendoza. The foul was more than deserved as Perone kicked out at Mendoza’s and connected his face with his heel.

It was a strange one as the kick was totally uncalled for. So much potential of the second half, wasted by Kerala Blasters Fc in a single act of madness.

Immediately after, Kerala Blasters decided to shut up shop and sit back. On the other hand, Chennaiyin FC didn’t show any significant ambition either. Draw was a good result for KBFC so it made sense for them. Chennaiyin FC should’ve done more.

Tactical Analysis: First Impressions + Projections

This was a strange game. I have no qualms about saying that. So, analysing this game tactically would be a difficult task.

The highlight for me in this game was the daring strategic change from Trevor Morgan. It would’ve been safe for him to just continue for Taylor had been doing but he took charge and stamped his managerial authority on the game by starting hir three main strikers simultaneously.

I liked how he deployed Watt. Watt was, essentially, Morgan’s playmaker with his quick change of directions, hold up play, close control, and creative passing. Dagnall and Rafi acted as target men in different moulds. While Dagnall was the channel runner, Rafi was the target man.

On the defensive side of things, I also liked how Kerala Blasters FC managed to block the connection of Elano and Mendoza. It was a simple enough strategy that involved man marking them both in a rotational manner. Their strategy could end up being the blueprint for other teams if they choose to pay attention.

The second half was particularly interesting because Kerala Blasters FC seemed to have decided to use their height advantage over Chennaiyin FC. It worked too as they scored the equaliser. However, one stupid panicked action from Perone destroyed their strategy.

As soon as Perone went off, you could see Kerala Blasters FC deciding to settle for the draw.

Chennaiyin FC did what they always do. Although they could’ve tried to counter Kerala’s counter of the Elano – Mendoza connection better. More importantly, once Kerala Blasters FC went down one man, Chennaiyin FC should’ve pushed for the winner. Instead, they decided to settle for the draw as well.