ATK fell to a disappointing 1-2 defeat on Thursday night to Chennaiyin FC who went top of the league, albeit temporarily. The result was disappointing for the Kolkata-based team not because they deserved to win the tie but because they had taken the lead but failed to hold on to it.
The beleaguered team, after the sacking of Teddy Sheringham, made quite a few changes going into this game. Notably, Zequinha was left out and in came new signing Martin Paterson and David Cotterill. Westwood deployed Ryan Taylor in midfield to deny space for Chennaiyin's Raphael Augusto who is so vital to their build-up play.
But Chennaiyin, who opted to play Anirudh Thapa also in midfield had just that extra bit of fluidity and creativity in midfield which meant they did create chances and looked the better outfit.
But the home team took a surprise lead just before half-time through Martin Paterson, who showed good movement inside the box to latch on to Jayesh Rane's cross. Karanjit Singh, who could have come out to claim the cross, was a bit unlucky to see his initial save bounce straight to Paterson who bundled it in.
Few minutes before the goal, Ryan Taylor, who was tightly marking Raphael Augusto, had to be substituted after suffering an injury. That appeared to be a blow as Chennaiyin's Brazilian midfielder found spaces galore in the second half as he and Anirudh Thapa orchestrated attacks in unison.
ATK's best hope seemed to be to hold on to the lead doggedly but extremely poor defensive errors, coupled with individual mistakes, meant that the South Indian side could overhaul the scoreline and notch an important win.
The equaliser came from poor marking from the ATK defence who let Mailson Alves, a big strong centre-back, free in the middle of the box. Thapa, who had a brilliant game on the night, curled in a delicious corner which was met by Mailson. Even then, his header was close enough to Debjit Majumder to have pulled out a save but his feeble attempt could not keep the effort out.
If criticising Debjit for the equaliser seems too harsh, there were no doubts about the winner. Debjit is an excellent shot-stopper, like his save from a Raphael Augusto long-ranger showed, but his handling is often error-prone and has cost ATK and Mohun Bagan (during the previous I-League season) points.
On Thursday, he made an absolute hash of a simple cross and spilled it right on to Jeje Lalpekhlua who might not score an easier goal in his career.
As Westwood was left scratching his head after conceding two soft goals and ending up on the losing side, there are no questions as to who the better team was. Chennaiyin FC had the best of the opportunities and should have scored three or even four goals.
The gap between FC Goa, who are placed fourth, and ATK is now 7 points and one wonders if the defending champions' playoff hopes are dwindling considerably. Moreover, FC Goa have two games in hand over ATK as well.
Chennaiyin, on the other hand, are racking up important points away from home and look a sure bet for a playoff spot.