December 14, 2016 5:59:49 pm
Jose Molina’s Atletico de Kolkata were playing a precarious balancing game in the Indian Super League. While they had progressed from the league stages to the semi finals on a canter in 2015, they barely made the cut this season after winning just four of their 14 matches in the league stage.
This indicated that Mumbai City FC might just be too big a proposition for them in the semi-finals. Alexandre Guimaraes’ side had marauded through the final matches of the league stage with their attack finally coming together alongwith what was already a solid defence. They had scored seven goals in their last two fixtures and qualified to the semis with a game to spare.
But it all seemed to come together for Atletico de Kolkata against Mumbai City. The latter can be unstoppable once they get into their rhythm, as is evident from what they did to Kerala Blasters. ATK made sure they didn’t allow that in the best possible way, a goal in the second minute of the match. They were lucky with that one; Borja’s shot from outside the box hit Didika and found its way into goal in the most improbable of ways. But ATK’s intentions were clear, they decided to stop Mumbai from attacking with attacks of their own.
They kept it up throughout the first leg, answering every Mumbai attack with a counter and prevailed 3-2.
In the second leg, they couldn’t do the same as they were defending a one-goal advantage against Mumbai at home in addition to going down to 10-men before the half time whistle. Unlike the first leg, this was now a match that was theirs to lose. They adapted well and frustrated their opponents by ‘parking the bus’ to perfection. It may be seen as a negative tactic but what has to be commended is their ability to adapt to the situation. In the end Guimaraes had to concede that Mumbai City lost to a better side.
In Delhi Dynamos and Kerala Blasters, they have two sides that couldn’t be more different in their approaches. Delhi have scored the most goals this season; 27 in the league stage alone, while Kerala have pushed through to the semi finals through sheer determination. Their record in the league stage is pockmarked with last minute winners and equalisers. Moreover, if they do prevail over Delhi on Wednesday, the finals will be played in front of their home fans.
Whether they will be facing the attacking Dynamos or the determined Blasters backed by that behemoth of a crowd prodding them on, Atletico de Kolkata have shown that adaptability is one of their strong points and they will be looking to lift the trophy a second time.
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