After four days of watching their rivals try and fail at their chance of topping the table, Atletico De Madrid were now ready to get off their bums and throw down the gauntlet all over again.
The funny bit was that they had to do it while thwarting Northeast United FC’s own bite at the top spot cherry. Granted, Northeast United were unlikely to beat Kolkata by a margin of 5 goals. However, if the Indian Super League has taught us anything, it’s that there aren’t any favourites especially since all teams are still finding their feet.
At the same time, the home and away difference hasn’t mattered yet in the ISL because fans are yet to latch on to their cities’ teams. In the last post, I also mentioned a need for derbies and rivalries in the league. I mentioned Mumbai City FC, FC Pune City, and FC Goa as likely candidates for developing passionate rivalries. That was a bit of an oversight as I should have mentioned Atletico De Kolkata and Northeast United FC as well. They have what we can effectively dub as the East India Derby*.
A Super Physical First Half
Amidst this thought process I turned the television on and saw Northeast United giving Atletico De Kolkata a run for their money and Kolkata trying to counter.
Northeast had their usual team spirit turned on while Kolkata were trying to work their Spanish flair into the game. The funny thing, though, was that it was Northeast’s Spaniard, Koke who was more effective than all three of Kolkata’s Spaniards.
It’s worth noting that Northeast United had made two changes to their team for this game. They had replaced James Keene with Durga Boro and Len (attacking forward) with Massamba Lo Sambou (a defensive midfielder). Kolkata had chosen to not play Saha, who had a torrid game last time, in favour of Nallapan Mohanraj.
Just after the ten minutes, the game lit up with Rehenesh TP having a heart in mouth moment. Kolkata countered with a 4 on 2 Rehenesh came out to beat Fikru but ended up fouling him near the baseline outside the 18 yard box. He got a yellow for his troubles.
This is the match when I unearthed a gem. I found the Ashley Young of ISL. Meet Guilherme Felipe de Castro, a man who has jelly for knees and daliya for spine. I’ve now watched him for 3 games and in each one he dove at least twice. Tsk tsk… The man really likes to lie down and complain. Reminds me of the time when I met this rowdy little 5 year old, who lay down and peppered the floor with his limbs when he didn’t get something he wanted. Would someone teach Felipe that this is football and not a find the oyster contest?
The half ended with a couple of injuries. Luis Garcia was bloodied by a Northeast elbow while Nato lay down holding his corner bone after a corner. Oh, and Fikru ended up with a bandage too. The physicality of the game was the main highlight of this half. Nothing more.
Champions Step Up When It Matters And Atletico De Kolkata Laid Down There Claim
In the second half, Atletico De Kolkata needed to make something happen. If they had failed to win then both Chennaiyin FC and FC Pune City would have the chance to overtake them tomorrow. The onus was also on Kolkata because Northeast United FC would continue their counterattacking game as a draw for them would have been a good return.
Kolkata did start the second half with more enthusiasm. I was intrigued because one team pushing forward meant goals one way or another. It did happen in the 51st minute. Northeast United gave the ball away in their defensive third, Jofre moved into the left side of the box and chipped a beautiful cross in. Luis Garcia was on hand to nod the ball in. Atletico De Kolkata 1 – 0 Northeast United FC.
Northeast United almost scored within the next five minutes through a freekick that Koke put wide by inches. The biggest problem that Northeast United had in that half was that they gave the ball away far too frequently and in all the wrong places.
Once you start doing that you not only break up your own momentum but also start losing confidence. Habas the Henchman look fairly satisfied especially in comparison to the first half. He looked to have decided to nurse his lead because Kolkata immediately took a step back and became defensive.
The last 20 minutes or so was mainly spent in Northeast United throwing up one toothless attacking move after another. They had possession and a few crosses but no end product. Northeast United lost because of two reasons today. First: they don’t have good enough strikers. Possibly because strikers are the most expensive to get in football and Northeast United don’t really have that much money. And second: they have inexperienced players who have heart and give it their all but lack the core understanding of what they need to do in specific situations.
Atletico De Kolkata deserved to win this one simply because they are the more seasoned team.
*You know, this is an interesting derby. You have Atletico De Kolkata who are the hotshots with their tie-up with Atletico De Madrid of Spain and Northeast United FC, a team that prides itself on focusing on its grassroots and has a low budget. Remember, their motto is ‘8 states, 1 united’. So, it’s the highflyers vs. the underdogs.