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ISL 2018-19: Kerala Blasters start campaign with 2-0 win over ATK

The win sends Kerala Blasters to the top of the table. Coppell's men would need to fix more than their finishing woes if they are to justify their two-times champions tag

BS Web team  |  New Delhi 

Kerala Blasters player Matej Poplatnik celebrate after scoring first goal against ATK  during the opening match of ISL 2018, in Kolkata (Photo: PTI)
Kerala Blasters player Matej Poplatnik celebrate after scoring first goal against ATK during the opening match of ISL 2018, in Kolkata (Photo: PTI)

Full-time match report: ATK's new manager Steve Coppell was all smiles when he spoke about his new team's first two fixtures -- both at home.  

"I couldn't have asked anything better. No disrespect to Kerala and NorthEast United but we will try and make our home a bit of fortress," Coppell told reporters on the eve of the first match. And was indeed a fortress for ATK, at least against Kerala Blasters, who they have defeated on four different occasions while losing only one. But, on Saturday, Kolkata's fort was breached.. and how!

One goal each by Slovenian Poplatnik and Serbia's Matej Poplatnik handed Kerala its first win of the season in a contest they thoroughly dominated. The men from Kerala started stepping on the gas right from the start while the home team retreated. The first chance came as soon as the fourth minute when Lalruatthara curled in a cross from his left wing although it didn't amount to much. 

In the 22nd minute, Poplatnik had a delicious one-on-one situation to capitalise on but was let down by his first touch. Kolkata's first real chance came through Everton Santos who, after receiving a long ball outside the box, unleashed a rocket of a shot that missed the crossbar by a whisker. Kolkata's big moment came in the 38th minute when they got a corner and found Jayesh Rane all alone at the back post but the winger headed his effort past the far post.

The first half ended scoreless, although Kerala caused the hosts all sorts of trouble, especially because of the trickery of Poplatnik who'd appear nearly everywhere.

The second half started on a slower note. Kerala kept pushing forward while had its moments of inspiration although neither translated to the balls ending at the back of the net. However, that changed in the 76th minute when Poplatnik broke the deadlock with a looping header. It started with Stojanovic, whose effort at goal was deflected and the ball fell kindly for Poplatnik who nodded the ball past a despairing Bhattacharja to hand Kerala a deserved lead.

More misery was to follow for Kolkata when almost 10 minutes later, Slavisa Stojanovic controlled a long ball near the box, twisted, turned and freed himself of two Kolkata defenders and then unleashed a stunning strike that ended up at the top-left corner.

The win hands Kerala three points and sends Kolkata at the bottom of the table. Coppell, who wanted to make Salt Lake Kolkata's castle, still has time -- it is, after all, the first game -- but would need to shake things up if he wants to end up on the winning side the next time. Although he did miss the services of Kalu Uche, his team would have needed much more than the Nigerian's scoring talent.

Kerala, on the other hand, have received a moral boost apart from the top spot at the points table after defeating their nemesis-in-chief who have tormented them repeatedly in past. Poplatnik was bursting with creative energy tonight and that must have pleased David James. India's U-17 World Cup star Dheeraj Singh also made his ISL debut for Kerala and had a convincing performance after being handed his first start. It's celebration time in God's own country while the players need to pick up the pieces and build from them the castle of Salt Lake their manager has envisioned. 

ISL 2018-19: Kerala Blasters start campaign with 2-0 win over ATK

First three points of the season  #HeroISL debut goal #LetsFootball #KOLKER pic.twitter.com/47PbqiYBJc — Indian Super League (@IndSuperLeague) September 29, 2018

ISL 2018-19: Kerala Blasters start campaign with 2-0 win over ATK

Full-time. Full-time match report to follow

ISL 2018-19: Kerala Blasters start campaign with 2-0 win over ATK

Minute 90+4 -- Refree blows the final whistle. That's it for today. Kerala make a winning start with goals by Poplatnik and Stojanovic. Kolkata, playing at home and despite the record of never losing their opening match, crumbled and rarely threatened the Kerala goal

ISL 2018-19: Kerala Blasters start campaign with 2-0 win over ATK

Minute 90 -- 4 minutes of added time

ISL 2018-19: Kerala Blasters start campaign with 2-0 win over ATK

Minute 89 -- Kerala's hero Matej Poplatnik is taken off for the final minutes. Kizito Keziron replaces him

ISL 2018-19: Kerala Blasters start campaign with 2-0 win over ATK

Minute 86 (GOAL!!) -- Stojanovic scores Kerala's second!! The Serbian controls a long ball near the box, twists, turns and frees himself off two Kolkata defenders and strikes it into the top-left corner!! Sweet sweet strike. Kolkata 0-Kerala 2

ISL 2018-19: Kerala Blasters start campaign with 2-0 win over ATK

76' GOALLLL! Poplatnik puts @KeralaBlasters ahead! KOL 0-1 KER#HeroISL #LetsFootball #KOLKER #FanBannaPadega pic.twitter.com/gcJK0CBZFU — Indian Super League (@IndSuperLeague) September 29, 2018

ISL 2018-19: Kerala Blasters start campaign with 2-0 win over ATK

Minute 78 -- ATK make a change. Cavin Lobi comes in for Jayesh Rane

ISL 2018-19: Kerala Blasters start campaign with 2-0 win over ATK

Minute 76 (GOAL!!)-- Slovanian Poplatnik breaks the deadlock with a looping header. Although it did have an element of luck in it. Stojanovic's effort at goal is deflected and falls kindly for Poplatnik who heads it past Bhattacharja. ATK-0, KERALA 1.

ISL 2018-19: Kerala Blasters start campaign with 2-0 win over ATK

Minute 76 -- Slovanian Poplatnik breaks the deadlock with a looping header

ISL 2018-19: Kerala Blasters start campaign with 2-0 win over ATK

Minute 72 -- Double substitution: Kalu Uche is on for El Maimouni Noussair   Kolkata's Lyngdoh on for Balwant Singh

First Published: Sat, September 29 2018. 17:11 IST

ISL 2018-19: Kerala Blasters start campaign with 2-0 win over ATK

The win sends Kerala Blasters to the top of the table. Coppell's men would need to fix more than their finishing woes if they are to justify their two-times champions tag

Full-time match report: ATK's new manager Steve Coppell was all smiles when he spoke about his new team's first two fixtures -- both at home.  

"I couldn't have asked anything better. No disrespect to Kerala and NorthEast United but we will try and make our home a bit of fortress," Coppell told reporters on the eve of the first match. And was indeed a fortress for ATK, at least against Kerala Blasters, who they have defeated on four different occasions while losing only one. But, on Saturday, Kolkata's fort was breached.. and how!

One goal each by Slovenian Poplatnik and Serbia's Matej Poplatnik handed Kerala its first win of the season in a contest they thoroughly dominated. The men from Kerala started stepping on the gas right from the start while the home team retreated. The first chance came as soon as the fourth minute when Lalruatthara curled in a cross from his left wing although it didn't amount to much. 

In the 22nd minute, Poplatnik had a delicious one-on-one situation to capitalise on but was let down by his first touch. Kolkata's first real chance came through Everton Santos who, after receiving a long ball outside the box, unleashed a rocket of a shot that missed the crossbar by a whisker. Kolkata's big moment came in the 38th minute when they got a corner and found Jayesh Rane all alone at the back post but the winger headed his effort past the far post.

The first half ended scoreless, although Kerala caused the hosts all sorts of trouble, especially because of the trickery of Poplatnik who'd appear nearly everywhere.

The second half started on a slower note. Kerala kept pushing forward while had its moments of inspiration although neither translated to the balls ending at the back of the net. However, that changed in the 76th minute when Poplatnik broke the deadlock with a looping header. It started with Stojanovic, whose effort at goal was deflected and the ball fell kindly for Poplatnik who nodded the ball past a despairing Bhattacharja to hand Kerala a deserved lead.

More misery was to follow for Kolkata when almost 10 minutes later, Slavisa Stojanovic controlled a long ball near the box, twisted, turned and freed himself of two Kolkata defenders and then unleashed a stunning strike that ended up at the top-left corner.

The win hands Kerala three points and sends Kolkata at the bottom of the table. Coppell, who wanted to make Salt Lake Kolkata's castle, still has time -- it is, after all, the first game -- but would need to shake things up if he wants to end up on the winning side the next time. Although he did miss the services of Kalu Uche, his team would have needed much more than the Nigerian's scoring talent.

Kerala, on the other hand, have received a moral boost apart from the top spot at the points table after defeating their nemesis-in-chief who have tormented them repeatedly in past. Poplatnik was bursting with creative energy tonight and that must have pleased David James. India's U-17 World Cup star Dheeraj Singh also made his ISL debut for Kerala and had a convincing performance after being handed his first start. It's celebration time in God's own country while the players need to pick up the pieces and build from them the castle of Salt Lake their manager has envisioned. 

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