ISL 2018-19: Lacklustre ATK succumb to Kerala Blasters in season opener
Sportzpics/ISL
Goals from Kerala's two new Balkan strikers handed the Yellows their first ever win in Kolkata...
ATK were handed a 0-2 defeat by Kerala Blasters in the 2018-19 Indian Super League (ISL) curtain-raiser at the Salt Lake Stadium in Kolkata on Saturday.

Matej Poplatnik (77') scored the first goal of the season while Slavisa Stojanovic (86') hit another as Steve Coppell lost to his former employers by conceding goals in the last quarter of an hour.

ATK's Jayesh Rane was the only player in the starting XI that featured last season for the Sourav Ganguly co-owned franchise. New recruits Gerson Vieira, John Johnson, Everton Santos and Manuel Lanzarote along with Moroccan midfielder Noussair El Maimouni were handed club debuts in a 4-2-3-1 system.

On the other hand, David James chose to stick to a more traditional 4-4-2 formation but surprisingly fielded only four overseas players in the starting XI. FIFA U17 World Cup sensation Dheeraj Singh made his ISL debut while youngsters Mohammad Rakip and Sahal Samad got starts. With Nikola Krcmarevic at the centre of the park, 'Balkan Brothers' Stojanovic and Poplatnik spearheaded the attack. 

The visitors started on the front foot and had more purpose while going forward with the ball. Chances came in thick and fast for Blasters as it was one-way traffic for the first ten minutes.

Manuel Lanzarote ATK Kerala Blasters ISL 2018-19

It took a goal-line clearance from Sena Ralte to keep the score unchanged when Nemanja Lakic-Pesic thundered in a header from a flag-kick taken by Poplatnik. 

ATK got the first glimpses of goal when Lanzarote showed his class wit hihs curling delivery crashed into the crossbar and before going out to safety, much to the relief of debutante Dheeraj. Even Everton Santos's shot in the 26th minute went over the crossbar.

The scoreline remained unchanged at the break and James' men had no one to blame but themselves for failing to make their domination count. 

ATK looked a shade better after the resumption of play but their attacking prowess fizzled out as Blasters once again clawed their way back into the game. 

Coppell brought on Nigerian Kalu Uche and Eugeneson Lyngdoh on in the 75th minute but the double change backfired as ATK conceded minutes after the substitutions.

Slavisa Stojanovic ATK Kerala Blasters ISL 2018-19

Poplatnik broke the deadlock and got his name on the scoresheet after he managed to put the ball past Bhattacharya from close range. Second half substitute Courage Pekuson found Stojanovic just outside the edge of the box who decided to try his luck immediately after receiving the ball. His attempted shot ricochetted off Vieira before falling for Poplatnik who made no mistake to bury the ball into the net. 

Four minutes from regulation time, Stojanovic doubled the lead for Blasters courtesy of a stunning effort from outside the box after Narzary found the Serbian with a long ball from the centre of the park. 

After a disappointing start, ATK will look to bounce back in their next match against NorthEast United on October 4 while Kerala Blasters host Mumbai City FC at home a day later.

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