10-man ATK hearts were broken in the 90th minute at the Indian Super League (ISL) clash at the Salt Lake stadium on Thursday with a Rowllin Borges’ header consigning the hosts to a second consecutive home defeat. Northeast United, on the other hand, climbed to the top of the table temporarily following the late goal.
Steve Coppell’s men were reduced to 10 men in the first-half itself when left-back Sena Ralte was given his marching orders for a second bookable offence.
Unhappy with the sending-off of his left back , the Englishman said, “It's not a good idea to play 10 against 11. It was a harsh red card I thought. It wasn't a malicious match but he (match official) kept flashing yellow cards. It was a silly second challenge though.
“We did well till the last minute. It was cruel to concede a goal from a set piece in the last minute.”
For the former Kerala Blasters and Jamshedpur FC coach, a second home defeat on the bounce to start off the campaign was a bitter pill to swallow.
“Well it's certainly not the way we wanted to start. Today we were up and ready for the game. We started the game rightly. After the red card it became difficult. This league is like a 400 metres (race) so we will come back. We have 13 days break now before next game. It will be a difficult game against Delhi. We will be working hard and try to bounce back,” Coppell explained.
The 10 men of ATK held firm for large parts of the match with John Johnson putting in an excellent shift at centre-back. A corner kick proved to be their undoing in the end with Borges getting all the space in the world to power his header to the left-corn of Arindam Bhattacharya’s goal.
Ruing the late goal, the ATK coach stated, “Today the players gave everything. To concede a set piece go is tough. We will dissect the goal tomorrow from video. Maybe we were a man short so they got an advantage.”
Prolific Nigerian striker Kalu Uche once again started on the bench before being thrown on for the last 10 minutes.
On being asked why he had taken so long to bring on the centre forward, Coppell replied, “I wanted to bring Kalu earlier. Because we were doing ok it got delayed.”
There was a small ray of sunshine for the English coach with experienced central defender Andre Bikey set to make his return from injury in the clash against Delhi Dynamos.
“We have Bikey who will be fit by next game. Hopefully we have a full strength squad in the next match,” said Coppell.
With ATK going the tried and tested route this season by recruiting mainly experienced ISL players, the coach believes his side are a little short in the energy department.
“I agree. This side is not a young side. Not a terrifically energetic side. But they fought hard,” Coppell concluded.