ATK powered themselves into the top-four race after a vital 2-1 win over Jamshedpur FC in the Indian Super League (ISL) on Sunday. The combination of Manuel Lanzarote and Edu Garcia was pivotal for the Kolkata side and it was the former who scored two free-kicks to hand ATK all three points.
Credit must be afforded to Steve Coppell for altering the team’s make-up and approach to the tie against Jamshedpur. For the very first time this season, Arnab Mondal was handed a start as he partnered John Johnson at the back.
This allowed Coppell to fill his attacking positions with foreign players, namely Garcia, Lanzarote and Everton Santos. Each of the three players brought a unique quality which the Jamshedpur defence couldn’t handle.
Although they continued to rely on counterattacks given that Jamshedpur had Memo and Mario Arques in the middle of the park, Jamshedpur’s defence made schoolboy errors as they struggled to contain the attacking trio.
Everton would often take one or two defenders with him as he ran into channels which opened up space of Lanzarote and Garcia, whose interplay was outstanding. Questions were raised on ATK when they threw big money to capture the prized signature of Garcia for the final seven matches or so. However, the Spaniard hasn’t let them down with important contributions in the last two games.
Lanzarote, coming into the game, showed his class once again with two excellent free-kicks. The former FC Goa player looked in good touch, something which NorthEast United and Jamshedpur FC, who are also fighting for a play-off berth, would worry about.
The momentum is certainly with the Kolkata outfit who have four crucial matches to go. Coppell once again has managed to keep his team in the mix until the end of the league stage as ATK are very much in contention for a play-off berth.
Jamshedpur FC looked primed for one of the play-off spots earlier in the season. However, a string of draws have left them at a disadvantage as the race for the playoffs heats up.
They might still have 20 points from 14 games but ATK are hot on their heels. But the fact is Jamshedpur have lost only two games and have drawn a massive eight matches.
However, the match on Sunday was one they had to win, given what was at stake. But the defeat has opened up an avenue for ATK and thereby Jamshedpur have shot themselves in the foot.
The failure to convert advantageous positions to wins stem from the fact that their defence has been poor. While showcasing an eye-pleasing brand of football, their defensive vulnerabilities have come back to haunt Cesar Ferrando time and time again.
It was again the case on Sunday, with two goals from setpieces which were preventable ending up costing them. Dhanachandra Singh had a forgettable outing and was taken off at half-time. The likes of Robin Gurung, Raju Gaikwad and Raju Yumnam have all been inconsistent. The absence of a second foreign defender has been very evident.
One thing is clear - there is no place for mediocrity from here on.