So, what a start to the new season of the Indian Super League (ISL). Carl McHugh produced a brilliant volley to score ATK's 100th league goal and give the visitors a deserved lead at Kochi. But it proved to be a short-lived joy for Antonio Habas and his team as Kerala Blasters found their hero in the recruit and new captain Bartholomew Ogbeche. The Nigerian scored twice, from the spot and a beauty of a curler. With some soft decisions going against the visitors, the hosts managed to hold onto a 2-1 lead until the final whistle. Still a good win for them in front of a packed Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium. And that's all from us for tonight. But, don't forget, we have Bengaluru FC vs NorthEast United clash tomorrow. That will be a cracker.
9:50 PM IST: If you missed the opening ceremony, feat Disha Patani and Tiger Shroff, here are some stills.
Party-time in Kerala. Skipper Bartholomew Ogbeche slotted home from the spot to level the scoreline, then scored the winner to give Kerala Blasters a dream start to the new season. ATK will be surely disappointed with some decisions going against them. But all in all, a stunning start to the 6th season of Indian Super League. That Carl McHugh volley was a thing of beauty. On Monday, champions Bengaluru FC take on NorthEast United.
Second-Half: Kerala Blasters 2 - 1 ATK
90+5' - Kerala Blasters slowing down. Waiting for the final whistle, at the far corner. And it's over. Bartholomew Ogbeche wins for Kerala.
90+4' - Balwant Singh is frustrated. He gets a free header to near post from a cross, but wasted. Over the bar.
90+3' - Kerala's Mouhamadou Moustapha Gning booked. Cameron's Messi Bouli in for Kerala. And last gasp attack from ATK.
90' - Stoppage time here. Five additional minutes.
88' - Agustin Garcia, what are you doing? Body block with elbows targeting your opponent. Yellow card, rightly. Bartholomew Ogbeche is down. Remember what happened between those two at the start of the second half.
87' - Arindam Bhattacharja parries away a cross with his left hand. Danger averted for ATK. Kerala clearly dictating the match now.
85' - Edu Garcia sends in a teasing delivery from a free-kick. Jairo Rodrigues is caught in the air by Agustin Iniguez. Jairo is on the ground, but a corner to ATK.
82' - Jeakson Thaunaojam out, Sahal Abdul Samad in. One youngster for another. And huge roar from the fans Kerala fans. Also for ATK. Pronay Halder out, Balwant Singh in.
80' - Bartholomew Ogbeche, again, on the ball, showing his maturity. But the Nigerian can't check his shot. ATK down to 10 men. Injury.
79' - David Williams blocks a delivery from Bartholomew Ogbeche, for a corner for Kerala. Ogbeche, unselfishly relays it for Halicharan Narzary. But the youngster wastes it by hitting the ball over the bar. Very poor. Should have kept it in play.
76' - Michael Soosairaj wins a free-kick. Jeakson escapes a yellow card, just in front of the referee. Clumsy. And new man Edu Garcia sends it over the bar.
74' - Another sub for ATK. Javier Hernandez makes way for Edu Garcia. Foreigner for a foreigner.
73' - Free-kick for ATK. But Michael Soosairaj sails it over the bar. Going for the moon. It was never in the range. Then, there are mobile lights, illuminating night in Kochi.
71' - Roy Krishna is everywhere. This time on the left flank, but was taken down by Jeakson Thounaojam, one of India's stars from the U-17 World Cup at home.
70' - Javier Hernandez gets a yellow card a late tackle.
68' - Some delicate moves from Krisha, the New Zealand international. But ATK fail to make the most out of those moves. Then, Krishan gets himself tangle with Jairo. Bilal Husain Khan gets to the spillover.
64' - Arques just in, and blocks a dangerous ball. What an introduction. Also a sub for ATK. Jayesh Rane out Sehnaj Singh in.
64' - And substitution for Kerala. Sergio Cidoncha out, Mario Arques in.
63' - Bartholomew Ogbeche, the holding midfielder, gets himself in the perfect position to head in from a delivery from the right. But just misses the near post. What a chance for Kerala.
62' - Roy Krishna is putting in the hard yards. Tries to minus after a good run, but gets blocked. Another Kerala player down, off the ball. Tired? No, Javier Hernandez punches Bartholomew Ogbeche in the back. What a farce.
59' - Halicharan Narzary commits a foul, another free-kick to ATK. But the hosts manage to thwart any attempt from the dead-ball situation. And trouble for Kerala. Narzary dumped by Pronay Halder. Not serious.
56' - Michael Soosairaj wins another free-kick after drawing foul from Gianni Zuiverloon. Javier Hernandez wastes the chance, trying the curl from a non-existent angle, from the edge.
53' - Another free-kick for ATK. But their dummy take fails to inspire, misdirected. Another probing run from ATK.
50' - Referee is having a word with Roy Krishna for pushing and shoving. Then a wasted corner kick. Delivery never arrived from David Williams.
49' - Both the sides happy to roll about, then occasional long rangers, just like in the first half. A brilliant run from Prabir Das. Wins a free-kick then a corner from the following play. Followed by another.
46' - ATK kick off from right to left, and win a corner. And what a chance. A goal-mouth melee and David Williams misses from the goal-mouth. Shout for a penalty too. Bound to happen.
8:30 PM IST: And Sourav Ganguly just hailed the Kerala crowth. He reminded everyone that he made his Indian cricket team captaincy debut here. And he is optimistic that the league will go forward - women's football, children's football, as Nita Ambani said.
And that's all from the first half. Mind you, this will go all 12th rounds. What a half. Bring it on ISL. The world is watching.
First-Half: Kerala Blasters 2 - 1 ATK
45' - GOAL! Lovely delivery from Prabir Das, from the right and Roy Krishna should have done better to hit the target. His rising header sails over the bar. A relieved Bilal collects the ball. Then Bartholomew Ogbeche stuns the visitors with a stunning effort, on the counter. And the stadium explodes. Right in the top corner. No one's saving that tonight. Power, precision, it gets everything. Culprit, Pranoy Halder. He let the hosts' captain take the shot.
42' - Prasanth Karuthadathkuni, inside ATK box, seems to handle the ball, from a Halicharan Narzary delivery.
40' - Pronay Halder, despite his visible fallacies, is winning the ball for ATK, and with Jayesh Rane, forms a good partnership in the middle. Kerala give away the ball in a dangerous area, but escaped unpunished.
38' - Now, it's Kerala's turn to heat on. A series of attacking moves from the right.
35' - Having restored the parity, Kerala are rolling the ball. Win a freekick following another a sliding tackle from Pronay Halder, just outside the D. A wasted opportunity for Kerala.
30' - GOAL! Then, a penalty on the other side. Penalty for Kerala. And the skipper Bartholomew Ogbeche slots from the spot. Blame it on Pronay Halder, for pulling. But, a soft one.
25' - Youngster Jessel Carneiro gives it a go from the distance. His curler just misses the far post. Mighty relief for ATK. On the interchange, Michael Soosairaj almost win a penalty after getting tripped inside the Kerala box. It looks like a clear penalty.
19' - Kerala desperate for the equaliser, launch yet another counter with Prasanth Karuthadathkuni delivering a cross but Arindam Bhattacharja is alert. Moments ago, Bilal Husain Khan got himself on a one-on-one.
24' - Jairo Rodrigues was caught ball watching, and also booked. He is living dangerously. It's been end-to-end action, but not necessarily smooth one. So far, the stand-out performer is Roy Krishna. The player from A-League even got himself on a good chance to score, but the linesman rules him off-side, incorrectly.
17' - Jairo Rodrigues commits a foul on the right flank, and free-kick to ATK. But the Kerala back-line does well to win the ball back and launch a quick counter with Halicharan Narzary on the ball. But nothing came off it. From the following exchange, Krishna manages to draw a foul, and yellow card for Jairo.
14' - Clean up work from the back for Kerala Blasters. Then, after a few high balls, they win a free-kick near the centre. And ATK's Jayesh Rane becomes the first player to be booked for time-wasting.
9' - Pronay Halder, lucky to escape without a booking for his dangerous-looking shoulder charge to Bartholomew Ogbeche. Free-kick for the hosts, but it sails over the bar. Good attempt from Jairo Rodrigues.
6' - GOAL! Carl McHugh delivers a thunderbolt of a goal. 100th goal for ATK.
Kerala Blasters conceded in the 6th minute. ðÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂÂ#KERKOL #HeroISL #IndianFootball https://t.co/kaOTB5d5dJ— Mal-Lee (@MallikarjunaNH) October 20, 2019
4' - Good move from ATK. Jeakson, the 18-year-old, in the thick of the action. But the referee calls for a foul. Contentious.
1' - First move from Kerala Blasters, but the cross from the left flank by Narzary sails over the bar. Goal kick to ATK.
7:27 PM IST: Kerala Blasters have a new look XI, with as many as eight players getting their first games for the side. The same can be said of ATK, but the visitors look an established side already, with Habas orchestrating their every move from the sidelines. Ganguly, the BCCI-elect, was also seen in the middle, with an umbrella. Busy man for sure.
7:25 PM IST: Players are ready for the National Anthem. Moments ago, Jhingam was seen waving at the fans from the stand. Will surely miss him.
7:20 PM IST: ISL has just become the top-tier football league in India, after Asian Football Confederation helped broker an agreement between all the stakeholders.
7:18 PM IST: Players are warming up. Yes, the backdrop is a sea of yellow.
7:10 PM IST: In an electrifying but very short opening ceremony, acclaimed dance troupe Kings United performed, which was followed by dance performances from Bollywood stars Disha Patani and Tiger Shroff.
Then Nita Ambani, member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and Founder Chairperson, Reliance Foundation, has a brief speech, announcing the start of the new season.
6:50 PM IST: Meanwhile, Indian Super League has introduced 'cooling breaks' in accordance with FIFA rules
6:45 PM IST: Here are the starting XIs
Kerala Blasters: Bilal Husain Khan (GK), Mohamad Rakip, Jairo Rodrigues, Mouhamadou Gning, Bartholomew Ogbeche (C), Prasanth Karuthadathkuni, Jessel Carneiro, Halicharan Narzary, Sergio Cidoncha, Gianni Zuiverloon, Jeakson Thounaojam.
Subs: Raju, Rahul KP, Arques, Shibinraj, Sahal, Samuel, Messi.
ATK: Arindam Bhattacharja (GK), Carl McHugh, David Williams, Agustin Iniguez, Jayesh Rane, Pronay Halder, Javier Hernandez, Pritam Kotal (C), Roy Krishna, Michael Soosairaj, Prabir Das.
Subs: Dheeraj, Rathi, Anil, Komal, Edu Garcia, Balwant, Sehnaj.
For Kerala, they have roped in former NorthEast United manager Eelco Schattorie, who helped the Highlanders to their maiden playoff spot, besides bringing a host of young talents and proven performers. But the outfit has had some troubling news in the run-up to the season opener. They lost their defensive lynchpin Sandesh Jhingan to a torn ACL while on national duty, and before that, they were doing lots of traveling without converting into any meaningful match time. To return to the top of the pile, they will need to start producing results from the start.
Kerala Blasters Seasonal Record: 2nd in 2014, 8th in 15, 2nd in 16, 6th in 18 and 9th in 19.
Meanwhile, Sourav Ganguly-backed ATK are a confident lot, as usual. Despite the recent slump, they have also been in the mix of things. And again, they will once be a force to reckon with. Antonio Habas, who helped the Kolkata-based outfit win the inaugural edition is back. Considering the new format with the table toppers, not the winners representing the country in the AFC Champions League qualifiers, ATK will do everything to justify the heavyweight tag given to them. They have in fact brought in Roy Krishna and David Williams from far more competitive A-League in Australia.
ATK Seasonal Record: 1st in 2014, SF in 15, 1st in 16, 9th in 18 and 6th in 19.