The first Indian Super League has come to an end and it has been a massive success at least in terms of support by the fans. Atletico de Kolkata might have snuck into the last four thanks to a spate of draws but they stuck to their game plan of playing on the counter and won the first ever Indian Super League by defeating Kerala Blasters FC 1-0 in the final.
Atletico de Kolkata who are co-owned by the Spanish La Liga champions Atletico Madrid have their coach Antonio Habas to thank for the championship and although they might not have been the club with most goals in the league, their game play is akin to that of their parent club. They are tough to beat and often look for just that one goal to take the lead. If they do get the lead it is tough to break them down.
The road to the final was tough as they needed a last match draw to qualify and then beat a better FC Goa team over two legs via a penalty shootout to take on another unfancied team in the final. Mohammed Rafique scored the winner in the 94th minute to hand Kolkata another championship, first it was the IPL and now it’s the ISL, Kolkata is the city of champions.
The lanky Ethiopian striker will go down in history as the first goal scorer in the ISL. Fikru scored 5 goals in the 12 games he played but he missed out on the final as he was injured and without him Atletico de Kolkata looked lightweight in attack. Fikru was one of the most loved Kolkata players and his goal celebration has won him a place in our hearts if not for anything else.
The former Liverpool player, Garcia was the other bright spark in the Atletico de Kolkata attack. Garcia was the one pulling the strings in attack and looked dangerous when linking with Fikru in the final third. Although he only scored twice and assisted a couple of goals he was still voted as the fans’ favourite player of the tournament, speaks a lot about the 36 year old.
The Armenian goalkeeper of Atletico de Kolkata did not start as the number 1 at the club but when he was given an opportunity, he took it with both hands, literally. Bete kept 4 clean sheets in the run to the final and had the most important clean sheet in the final. Bete was also responsible for keeping Kolkata in the game in the final due to some great saves and certainly he was one of the best goalkeepers in the league.
Players who disappointed
The former Tata Football Academy product just did not do well enough to catch the fancy of the fans. Masih might be loved for his connection to Kolkata since he had played for Mohan Bagan but he was hugely disappointing in the chances he got for Atletico.
The highly rated East Bengal striker started the season well for Atletico and scored a couple of goals but then it all just dried up. Even when he was given a chance to play up front he wasn’t able to muster much for the Kolkata team. While Fikru was out injured Kolkata looked horrible going up front and a part of the blame must fall on the shoulders of the striker.
Another Indian player who failed to make a mark in the league, Lobo was the first player drafted into the team for the ISL but rarely looked to be up for the game. He did score a couple of amazing goals when he defeated his home team FC Goa but apart from that one game, there really was nothing to talk about from the Goan.
Marquee signing rating: 7/10
Luis Garcia was the star in attack for Atletico de Kolkata, the captain of the club was full of tricks and flicks as he often linked with the attackers and he was always looking for a pass to play a team mate through.
The only problem was that he got injured in the latter stages of the league and looked quite off during the last 2-3 games due to a hamstring injury he was nursing. His 2 goals and 2 assists might not look that great on paper but as soon as you took him out of the team, the team suffered and looked flat. Garcia gets a 7 out of 10 simply because he was not fit enough to contribute in the final stages, had he been fit, he would have done more damage for sure, a pretty decent first season in Indian football for the Spanish star.
What went wrong?
They won the league so nothing really went wrong for the club. Atletico de Kolkata were considered as one of the favourites to win the league when the teams were announced at the start of the season and they ensured that they did win the league.
If there was anything that went wrong for the club was the discipline of the club, Fikru really needs to tone it down against certain defenders and the whole fracas against FC Goa in the league stage resulted in Fikru, Habas and a coach of the Kolkata team to get banned. That is something that the club should work on and try to fix.
Areas of improvement
Goal scoring, plain and simple. Their defence and goalkeeping was pretty good but they lacked the goals to see the league through. The lack of goals almost cost them as they might have missed out on a top 4 place; they only scored 16 goals in the 14 league games and then scored just one goal in the next 3 games which is poor.
Overachievers or underachievers?
The club set out to do the best and that was to win the league, they aren’t underachievers or overachievers, they got what they wanted the most. Winning the first league is never easy since you don’t know what to expect but Antonio Habas should be given credit for taking them all the way through. They didn’t play the best football under Habas and he was rightly criticised from almost all quarters but he knew what he was doing and no one will complain about that now, Atletico de Kolkata- Champions of the Indian Super League, bring on next season.
Picture courtesy: Indiansuperleague & Zee news