Atletico De Kolkata maintained their unbeaten record in the Indian Super League but it would be Chennaiyin FC who will be the happier of the two teams for two different reasons. The first was simply the fact that Chennaiyin FC went through the whole period of normal time 1 goal down before drawing equal at the stroke of the 92nd minute.
The second was that, with this result, Chennaiyin kept their hopes of topping the table alive as they still have a game in hand. Both teams’ goals came from penalties which seemed justified to me on the evidence of how the teams played.
Two Best Teams in the League
This was a match between two best teams in the league till now. It’s more than just where you are in the league though. So, if you doubt that these two teams are the best in the league, consider the following.
- Chennaiyin FC have the best goal conversion rate in the league. This means that they’ve scored the most goals for the least number of attempts.
- Chennaiyin FC are the highest scorers in the league.
- Atletico De Kolkata have the best GD in the league with +6
- Atletico De Kolkata have the best defence in the league and have only let in 3 goals in 5 matches (4 in 6 after this one).
- And, Atletico De Kolkata is the only unbeaten team in the Indian Super League.
As you can see for yourself, these two teams are the crème de la crème of this league. As is often the case when such teams meet, they cancelled each other out.
Atletico De Kolkata’s Game Plan
Atletico De Kolkata pulled off what was almost a masterstroke in changing their strategy to counter the threat of Elano through balls by sitting back and building their attack slowly through possession.
I found it interesting because it seemed to me that the only reason Atletico De Kolkata had the upper hand for most of the game was that their manager was more agile of mind and experienced in his profession. In contrast, Materazzi seemed to be slow to respond to changing dynamics of the game. I’ll explain what I mean a little later.
The match was strategic in nature but Atletico De Kolkata seemed to have done slightly better.
Please know that this was my first view of Kolkata and they looked to me to be an extremely well managed team. Their team strategy was spot on and they were only let down by a moment of Rush of Blood to the Head. One thing you can be sure of – Kolkata’s Kingshuk really must be a fan of Coldplay.
Surprisingly, Materazzi chose the Indian international Rafi over Arnal and continued with himself in the centre of the park. Whatever you say, I don’t like Materazzi as a central defensive midfielder but I think he’s put himself there because that is one position where his lack of pace won’t let him down. I understand that and on second thought appreciate it.
The First Few Moments of the Game
The game began with Kolkata attacking left to the centre with intricate one touch passing topped off by a buttery through ball. The ball was flashed across the goal by Jofre but no one was there to nibble at it. It wasn’t only Atletico De Kolkata though who started well. Chennaiyin FC wasn’t far behind in skill but they didn’t have any clear cut chances.
The next notable chance was also Atletico De Kolkata’s. It was an audacious chip from well behind the centre circle from Luis Garcia (Atletico De Kolkata’s marquee player). The ridiculous chip actually required the Chennaiyin FC keeper to dive to save it.
By 12 minutes into the game, though, Elano showed up and started to dominate with not only his vision but also silky running with the ball. He managed to set up what was effectively a free header from Maurice. But, Maurice had jumped too soon which meant that his header looped over the crossbar.
A Personal and a Footballistic Dilemma
The match didn’t surprise me much. My biggest surprise was dished out by the commentators who dropped the bomb that Chennaiyin FC have the lowest attempted passes in the league. I find that so odd and its worth checking because I see Elano as a passer. Can anyone of you help me verify this fact?
As I said above, Atletico De Kolkata seemed to be set up to strangle Elano’s passing ability because they sat back and put two players on Elano whenever possible. The only way Chennaiyin FC could’ve countered this was with better movement from their strikers and intricate one touch passing a la Barcelona. I have a feeling they haven’t really practiced this yet so it didn’t really happen.
Also, managers of football teams have a tendency to put their stamp on how the teams play. Materazzi seems to have done this as well. Chennaiyin FC have a distinctly Italian feel to them while Atletico De Kolkata have a clearly Spanish style, wouldn’t you agree?
Denson stepped up next with his best action the whole game other than scrappy tackles. He tried a dipper from outside the box on a bouncing ball. It was an ambitious and highly technical shot. He didn’t do that bad to be honest.
Elano continued his domination running through gaps, slithering through nooks, and stepping around defenders like they weren’t there. He went down to a bad tackle from Jofre who also ended up treading on his whole hand. It was unintentional but Jofre got a yellow card for that and rightly so. It would be a significant moment which would gain importance later.
The First Goal, the First Mistake, the First Penalty
At just over the half an hour mark, Atletico De Kolkata got a penalty gifted to them. Rafi latched on to a ball and drove into the box without controlling it completely. Shilton Paul came out trying to get the bouncing ball and took down Rafi to dash Chennaiyin FC’s hopes of ending Kolkata’s unbeaten run. The last man rule meant that the referee had to send him off and he did. Materazzi took off Maurice, a striker, to bring on his backup keeper, Bracigliano. Garcia stepped up, stroked the ball precisely to the Keeper’s left side netting low. 1 – 0 to Atletico De Kolkata.
After this, I thought that the only chance Chennaiyin would have to get any points in this gave is through a set piece. I also didn’t expect to win the game after going down by one goal. Turned out to be prophetic.
Now, Chennaiyin FC weren’t only one goal down but also one man down. When this happens, it’s not the defence that suffers the most but attack especially since teams never go gung ho. Chennaiyin readjusted to push Elano forward at the right moments to give Mendoza support but if you ask me that was a bad strategy and a major mistake. I still see Elano as a passer. Push him forward and you lose your biggest weapon. That is exactly what happened. The slow, slow Elano tried and tried but slowly started getting tired and ineffective. More importantly, Chennaiyin FC had no one to supply the ball to Elano and Mendoza who looked alone up there.
I believe Materazzi should’ve taken his low energy and defensive nature off to put on someone who had a good engine and slightly more attacking verve. The engine, for me, was needed because that person would be able to counter the Spanish midfield of 3 of Atletico De Kolkata. Didn’t happen, though, and Chennaiyin slowly lost the initiative. Elano still got close with a free kick. It was off by one foot.
The Second Goal, the Second Mistake, the Second Penalty
In the second half, Atletico De Kolkata had a penalty appeal in the penalty area through Jofre. Jofre moved into the Chennaiyin penalty area and went down. There was clear contact and it was a clear penalty. However, the referee chose this point to lose his marbles and gave Jofre his second yellow card. The referee’s mistake / senility meant that Jofre went off and instead of running away with the game, Atletico De Kolkata saw trouble on the horizon. Still, that decision made the match interesting again. It woke me up from my beauty sleep too.
Chennaiyin FC players immediately started looking revitalised. They ran harder, tackled better, and even passed more promptly. Since Chennaiyin FC went behind and one man down, Bernard Mendy picked up his game. He must’ve had about 10 different dribbles from the heart of his defence to the heart of Atletico De Kolkata’s defence. That’s a long way. Mendy, effectively, became Chennaiyin FC’s ball carrier.
A moment of interest then. One, Ofentse Nato picked up a yellow card. Interesting name, he has. If he ever goes to Japan, they’ll call him Sensei Ofentse.
Last Moment Jolt!
By 60 minutes, the players started looking tired and Atletico De Kolkata started possession football. A little later, Borja tried a chip like Garcia’s earlier one. Chennaiyin keeper backtracked and saved. He cracked the post with his bum in the process. Buns of steel. He didn’t even wince once.
Materazzi took himself off for Jeje at 75 mins and Chennaiyin looked lively all over again.
This was a game of chips because Balwant tried one next from the edge of the box at an angle. He brushed the post. Chennaiyin FC picked it up in the last 10. Around 92nd minute, Mendoza won a penalty because Kingshuk remembered that he liked Cold play. Kingshuk’s boot was too high and aimed at Mendoza’s thigh. It was an unnecessary tackle which resulted in Chennaiyin equalising. 1 – 1 to Chennaiyin from what was essentially the last significant event of the match.