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MatchPreview: Out-of-sorts ATK look to get house in order against Kerala

Kolkata, Feb 7: Staring down the barrel after four consecutive defeats, defending champions ATK will look to get their house in order when they take on Kerala Blasters in an Indian Super League (ISL) clash here on Thursday.

ATK have been in dismal form since beating NorthEast United in Guwahati a little less than a month ago. The hosts lost to FC Pune City (0-3), Chennaiyin FC (1-2), Jamshedpur FC (0-1) and Bengaluru FC (0-2) affecting their chances of making the playoffs sitting at a lowly eighth position in the points table.

With just 12 points to show from 13 matches, ATK will have to win almost all their last five games and also hope that teams in the top four drop points.

Injuries to key players has played a big part in derailing their campaign and the string of poor results also led to the sacking of high-profile head coach Teddy Sheringham of Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur fame.

In the last game against high-flying table toppers Bengaluru at the Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan, ATK were abysmal at the back as Jordi Montel’s early own goal summed up their plight.

“We have to keep working,” interim coach Ashley Westwood had said after the match, wanting to look at the positives.

“I have a little bit of confidence. Yes, it was defeat, but I don’t think anybody that watched the game thought we deserved to lose. We created some good chances, which we obviously did not convert. Robbie Keane comes on and gets three shot off in the space of 35-40 minutes. So, we got some encouraging performances,” the Englishman added.

When asked about the motivating factor that would keep the club going for the next few matches, the 41-year-old replied, “To win. To play for contracts. To play to stay at the club. The contracts of all these boys are up. Nobody is on a multi-contract apart from Prabir (Das) and Debjit (Majumder). So, in my eyes, the five games are to stay at the club.”

For ATK, their talisman Robbie Keane finally got some game-time, coming on in the second half and making an impact straight away.

Kerala, on the other hand, are coming into the tie on the back of two wins against Delhi Dynamos and FC Pune City respectively.

In the last game, head coach and former England goalkeeper David James had said they played one of the best matches he has ever seen.

Kerala grabbed a dramatic last-gasp winner to beat Pune 2-1 at the Shree Shiv Chhatrapati Sports Complex Stadium in Pune last Friday.

After Jackichand Singh had given the two-time finalists the lead, Emilano Alfaro equalised from the spot. However, local boy CK Vineeth bagged the winner deep into injury time to hand all three points to the Kochi-based outfit. The win took them to fifth position in the points table.

“When I watched the videos, I didn’t think it looked as vicious as it appeared,” Kerala coach David James said.

“It’s the nature of the game. Both teams needed the win, and for the players it was difficult to keep control and unfortunately, we got a lot of bookings. But it happens in football. But I got to credit my players for not losing their cool.”

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ISL: Bengaluru inflict fourth successive defeat on hapless ATK with 2-0 win

Kolkata, Feb4:Ten-man Bengaluru FC consolidated their place at the top of the table by inflicting a 2-0 defeat on reigning champions ATK, who saw their chances of making the playoffs virtually go up in smoke, in an Indian Super League (ISL) encounter at the Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan here on Saturday.

Jordi Montel Figueras (3rd) scored an own goal in the first half with Venezuelan striker Miku (83rd) extending the lead in the second to help the Blues (27 points from 13 games) go four points clear of second-placed Chennaiyin FC who are on 23 points from 12 games. Bengaluru now have five wins from their last seven matches.

Meanwhile, succumbing to their fourth successive reversal, ATK remained rooted to eighth spot with just 12 points to show from 13 outings.

ATK got off to the worst possible start as Figueras put the ball into his own net trying to clear a cross inside the box after Edu Garcia found Udanta Singh on the right flank.

It was all downhill for the home team thereafter as Bengaluru toyed around with ATK passing the ball around with relative ease.

In the 17th minute, home team keeper Debjit Majumdar was forced into a good save from a Edu swipe. A minute later, Ryan Taylor’s free kick at the other end was punched clear by birthday boy Gurpreet Singh Sandhu.

ATK got a golden opportunity to pull one back three minutes into the half hour mark when Jayesh Rane met a Bipin Singh cross but the ball came off the far post. Rane tried to bury the ball on the rebound but visiting fullback Rahul Bheke slid in to avert the danger.

Bheke was the saviour for Bengaluru early in the second half as well, intercepting a Martin Paterson dummy for Rane expertly.

Ten minutes into the second period, fit-again Robbie Keane came on for Rupert Nongrum as ATK looked to get back on level terms.

Keane was straightaway into the act, feeding Paterson whose shot was saved well by Gurpreet.

Bengaluru suffered a body blow when the impressive Bheke was sent off after picking up a second booking. With 20 minutes still to go, the Ashley Westwood-coached side suddenly sensed an advantage but it was the visitors who doubled their lead.

Miku ran 35 yards after picking up the ball from Erik Paartalu to beat Figueras for pace and and slot the ball into the bottom right corner to bring up his tenth goal of the campaign and stay firmly behind league’s top scorer Ferran Corominas (12 goals) of FC Goa.

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MatchPreview:ISL: Struggling ATK have task cut out against Bengaluru

Kolkata, Feb 2: Desperate for a positive result after three successive defeats, defending champions ATK will have their task cut out against league leaders Bengaluru FC in an Indian Super League (ISL) match here on Saturday.

ATK interim coach Ashley Westwood, who has previously helped Bengaluru win their maiden I-League title and Federation Cup, will be up against his former allegiance but in dire need of a victory to keep their faint hopes of a top-four finish alive.

In the last game at the Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan, ATK lost to Jamshedpur FC by a solitary goal, their sixth reversal in the campaign.

After the match, Westwood said that injuries to key players has been ATK’s real bane.

“Our team has to be kept fit,” he had said after losing for the third time in a row. We have four injured foreigners and we have got Indian boys injured, too. We are playing a team that is very weak, because of the injuries. Simple as that,” he said.

“Obviously, Robbie Keane is injured. He is our main player. Ryan Taylor is suspended and injured. He is one of our goals’ players. Eugeneson Lyngdoh is injured, and he’s our best Indian player. It’s not an excuse, but those are the cards we got. 

“I think we had like 10 injuries today. So, it was always going to be tough. We have to find a way. That’s why we have the squad. That’s why we try things a little bit different. And we’ll keep trying and working till we find a solution,” he further stated.

Placed eighth in the points table, ATK are all but out of reckoning for a top-four finish. Westwood said it’s difficult but not impossible.

“Well, it looks very, very tough at the moment. We are probably going to need five wins and maybe a draw, possibly maybe even six wins. We are running out of games. 

Bengaluru, on the other hand, are coming on the back of two wins. The ISL debutants edged past NorthEast United FC 2-1 at home in the previous outing with Spanish defender Juanan and skipper Sunil Chhetri scoring on either side of Marcinho’s equaliser from the spot.

Having 24 points from 12 games, Bengaluru are one point ahead of second-placed Chennaiyin FC and two clear of Pune City FC, in third.

“It’s very important to follow other teams who have won, like Chennaiyin FC and FC Pune City,” Bengaluru FC coach Albert Roca had said after their last tie.

“So, we are in the same stage more or less, just one point ahead. But, it was very important to eliminate one team which will get some points in the next few games because they are doing things well.

“There are six games left and we need to win at least three to be in the last four. So, let’s go for that,” the Spaniard had added.

In the two sides’s last meeting, Bengaluru had shaded ATK 1-0.

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ISL: ATK suffer third straight defeat, lose 0-1 to Jamshedpur

Kolkata, Jan 29: ATK succumbed to their third straight defeat of the Indian Super League (ISL), this time losing to Jamshedpur FC 0-1 at the Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan here on Sunday.

Trindade Goncalves scored a second-half winner in the 66th minute to help Jamshedpur get back to winning ways after losing the previous match.

The result means ATK stay in the eighth position while Jamshedpur remained fifth but now have 19 points from 11 games.

Jamshedpur got a chance in the opening exchanges with Goncalves coming close to find the top corner with a drive from outside the box.

The visitors created a few chances in the first period but lacked good finishing to take the lead.

In the 25th minute, Jerry Mawihmingthanga took a swipe but failed to keep the ball down.

ATK took time to get into the game with their first corner coming in the 32nd minute. Jayesh Rane got a shot on target but it was a feeble one which Jamshedpur keeper Subrata Paul collected with ease.

In the 40th minute, Martin Paterson made a smart run towards the near post to get on the end of David Cotterill’s corner. Paterson’s shot though forced Paul into a good save.

At the other end, Izu Azuka was controversially flagged offside when replays showed otherwise.

At halftime, both teams were locked 0-0.

Three minutes into the second half, Golcalves met Jerry’s cross but the upright denied his volley.

Moments later, Jamshedpur took the lead. Hitesh Sharma felled Golcalves inside the area for the referee to point towards the spot. Golcalves made no mistake, with Debjit diving the wrong way.

ATK got a few chances to restore parity but failed to score.

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ATK are Manchester United of ISL: Chennai coach Gregory

Kolkata, Jan 25: Terming under-fire ATK as the Manchester United of the Indian Super League (ISL), Chennaiyin FC coach John Gregory said that his boys are charged up to take on the defending champions at the colossal Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan here on Thursday.

“We regard ATK as the Manchester United of India. It is a huge, massive club. Even though we have been champions once, we look up to them. All my players are fired up as they want to play against ATK at this beautiful stadium. At the start of the season, the first thing I did was check when do we play ATK, Much the same as everyone in England; when do we play Man United looking over the fixtures list, not so much Arsenal,” Gregory told reporters on Monday.

Chennai are second in the points table while ATK are struggling at eighth place.

Gregory also made light of ATK’s sacking of coach Teddy Sheringham after 10 games in charge, saying these things happen in football.

“These things happen. New guy comes in and gives everyone some confidence and suddenly things change. You saw what happened at NorthEast United. My good friend Avram Grant came in and they got a victory over FC Goa. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. I have to make sure that it doesn’t,” the English coach said.

The ISL has witnessed several coaches being fired this season. Before ATK, NorthEast showed Portuguese coach Joao de Deus the door following Kerala Blasters FC’s sacking of Rene Meulensteen.

Former Chelsea manager Avram Grant has taken over for NorthEast.

Despite ATK’s poor showing, Gregory did not want to write them off, praising their star player Robbie Keane, who is out injured.

“Robbie Keane has really shown in India what a quality player he is with his ability and his talent. I think he helped to get the players around him as well. 

“He a very inspirational footballer. I do believe that he could be coming back relatively soon. So he might come back and still play a part in ATK’s season,” he said.

“But we are obviously concerned about ATK. They’ve lost some very very good footballers. For one reason or another, it hasn’t worked as well as they wanted it. 

“Obviously, Teddy wanted it to work this season. He’s lost a lot of players to injuries and not been able to pick his best team,” he added.

Gregory also praised his medical team for keeping the team in shape.

“We’ve got a fantastic medical department. My head of sports science Niall Clark keeps everybody fit. Literally, we have 25 people to choose from and left three behind because they weren’t going to be a part of the match tomorrow,” he said.

“I’ve even had problems choosing players for the bench. It’s a testament to the way we look after our players. With games coming thick and fast.”

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ISL: ATK interim coach Westwood under ‘no pressure’

Kolkata, Jan 24: Struggling defending champions ATK may have sacked Teddy Sheringham, but interim coach Ashley Westwood, who was the team’s technical director, is hopeful of a fightback and is not worried about the hullabaloo surrounding the Indian Super League (ISL) franchise.

“We haven’t had a lot of time to instil massive difference. I hope we can inject a little bit of freshness, fresh face may change things or our fortunes, it can be as simple as having a little bit of luck,” Westwood told reporters in his first press conference as head coach.

“We have not been disgraceful, we are not rock bottom in the points table. Some results have been fine margins…let’s see where we go. There is no pressure. We want to go in the right direction,” he added.

The decision to sack Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur great Sheringham came from the team management just a day before their home game against Chennaiyin FC.

“I got a phone call last night, I think it was around 8-8:30. The CEO told me that he had a meeting with Sanjiv Goenka, one of the owners, and he relayed his thoughts that the campaign hasn’t gone the way he envisaged and they were making a change. They are looking for a new head coach and I help out in the immediate future. I am contracted to the club as technical director and have a responsibility to fulfil, and wherever the owners want me to fill it,” Westwood explained.

At the moment, it is very difficult for ATK to make it to the knockout stages as they are eighth in the points table after 10 games. They have eight more league games to go.

Asked how he would look to motivate the team already shorn of the services of star Irishman Robbie keane — out with an injury — Westwood said it has to come from within the players.

“Motivation… as professional footballers, you are playing at a fantastic stadium and in front of great fans. So you look at the stands and get motivation. It’s not upto me, they need to find motivation in themselves,” the former Bengaluru FC’s I-League winning coach said.

There has been talk of Westwood and Sheringham not being on the same page all the time. Westwood though rubbished those as “rumours” adding he would not be making drastic changes to the team strategy.

“That would be news to me. Me and Teddy had a good relationship. We spoke about many things, he has never come to me with displeasure of any player so if somebody tells me that directly I would dismiss that as a rumour,” he said.

“I won’t be making a lot of changes too soon. I would want to motivate the players as much as I can and hopefully they will respond better,” he added.

Sheringham was named coach in July last year.

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MatchPreview: ISL – ATK coach Sheringham staring down the barrel ahead of Chennaiyin FC clash

Kolkata, Jan 24: Defending champions ATK head coach Teddy Sheringham would under immense pressure to deliver the goods when his under-fire side take on high-flying Chennaiyin FC in an Indian Super League (ISL) clash at the Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan here on Thursday.

Placed eighth in the ten-team points table after facing a harrowing 0-3 defeat in Pune, talk has been rife about Sheringham being shown the door after a string of underwhelming performances.

According to some in the know, irrespective of the result, the Englishman could be sacked after the Chennai game and technical director of the club Ashley Westwood tasked to coach the side.

ATK, in the 10 matches they have played so far, have won just three times losing four of them and playing out three stalemates.

Robbie Keane, who scored two goals for them in five matches, has also gone home due to an injury, leading Sheringham to rue the legendary Irishman’s absence after their last game.

“We have got our best player out injured in Robbie Keane and our best Indian player out injured in Eugeneson Lyngdoh,” Sheringham said.

The former Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur star forward also complained about playing the first seven of their 10 matches away, saying that took a toll on the team.

“We are missing our top players. Add that to the fixture list; we have had seven of our first 10 league games away from home. For any team, that is going to take its toll on a team.” 

He further continued: “We’ve got five games on the spin at home now. We have put ourselves in a bad position. If you get the five games at home early on, you have got a chance of being up there. We are in a bit of a dull place at the moment, and we have the games, but we put pressure on ourselves by having seven away games and causing our problems ourselves.”

Coming to Chennaiyin who are placed second in the table behind leaders Bengaluru FC, playing 11 games and having 20 points, getting back to winning ways will be on their minds against a lowly opponent lacking inspiration.

Chennai lost to NorthEast United FC 3-1 in their last outing, a result that can be termed as an upset.

The former ISL champions have looked in superb shape this season under coach John Gregory and beat ATK 3-2 at home in the reverse fixture.

It will be difficult for ATK to break Chennai’s solid defence and a win for the home side on the morrow would be a huge upset considering their recent form. For the visitors, hotshot Indian striker Jeje Lalpekhlua has also been among goals, netting six times in 11 games.

 

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ISL: Pune secure second victory over ATK

Pune, Jan 21: FC Pune City continued their march towards securing a place in the Indian Super League (ISL) play-offs with a “double” over ATK as they scripted a comfortable 3-0 victory at Shree Shiv Chhatrapati Sports Complex Stadium here on Saturday.

Pune City had registered a convincing 1-4 victory against the defending champions in Kolkata and many believed ATK would seek their revenge.

That hardly happened and instead it were Pune City who embarrassed ATK again with a comfortable victory.

Adil Khan (32nd minute), Diego Carlos (59th minute) and Rohit Kumar (77th minute) scored for Pune City as they got the goals despite their goal-machines, Marcelinho and Emiliano Alfaro, not getting on the scoresheet.

The victory takes Pune City to 19 points from 11 matches and consolidates their third position on the table. ATK, on the other hand, have 12 points from 10 matches and are placed a disappointing ninth.

Pune City led by a solitary goal in the first-half as they dominated for most part and created plenty of difficulties for the visitors.

Marcelinho and Alfaro were a constant threat and had Alfaro not missed a sitter, they would have been ahead early in the game. In the 19th minute, Diego Carlos served the ball on a platter for Alfaro to head home but the striker missed from point-blank range.

Fortunately for Pune, that miss did not come to haunt them as Adil Khan broke the deadlock in the 32nd minute.

A wonderful delivery from Marcelinho saw Adil rise high above the rest inside the box and finish off with a superb header for his fourth goal of the league. ATK were surprisingly subdued and did little to fight their way back.

Zequinha’s effort that went straight to the goalkeeper was the closest that they got and then there was the attempt from Conor Thomas which was cleared on the goalline by Jewel Raja.

In the second session, Pune City took control and got the goals that took the match away from ATK.

The second of the night came in the 59th minute and was a terrific effort from Diego Carlos.

The winger got hold of the ball from almost the halfway mark and dribbled past a couple of players before firing home from outside the box.

It was a perfect finish, giving ATK goalkeeper Debjit Majumder no chance.

Debjit was left stranded again in the 77th minute as Pune scored their third.

It was another high-quality goal from the youngster who collected a pass from Sarthak Golui, then took his time and picked up the bottom corner.

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ISL: Struggling ATK make several changes to squad

Kolkata, Jan 18: In a desperate bid to steady their ailing ship, two-time Indian Super League (ISL) champions ATK announced on Wednesday that they have parted ways with Njazi Kuqi, Jussi Jaaskelainen and Augustin Fernandes, replacing them with David Cotterill, striker Martin Paterson and former Delhi Dynamos goalkeeper Soram Poirei.

Former Bristol City player Cotterill is a versatile player who has fantastic ability with the ball. Martin Paterson played for Port Vale in England’s League One in 2016 and has represented Tampa Bay Rowdies in Major League Soccer (MLS).

Poirei started his career with I-League outfit Shillong Lajong FC and has also played for Bengaluru FC. He turned for Delhi Dynamos in the ISL in 2016.

“It is an honour to play for ATK. Kolkata has hosted the biggest teams and players in the past and has a rich footballing history. To play for the two-time ISL champion is a challenge which I am excited to take on,” Cotterill said in a statement.

“I look forward to score goals for ATK and hopefully help the team in qualifying for the play-offs. We all know the pressure that comes for playing for the two -time ISL Champions. I hope to enthral my fans and deliver with my performances,” Paterson said.

ATK head coach Teddy Sheringham is confident that the trio will help ATK boost their sagging ISL campaign.

“We are excited to have David, Martin and Soram on board with us. I hope we can integrate them quickly in our squad, so that they can start firing for the rest of the season,” the former Manchester United star said.

ATK are currently seventh in the league table with just 12 points from nine games.

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ISL: ATK edge past NorthEast

Guwahati, Jan 13: Zequinha scored a late winner as ATK defeated NorthEast United 1-0 in an Indian Super League (ISL) clash at the Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium here on Friday.

Zequinha came up with an excellent strike from outside the hosts’ penalty box after latching onto a rebound in the 73rd minute.

The win saw ATK climb two rungs to the sixth spot in the 10-team points table. They now have a dozen points from nine matches.

NorthEast remain second from bottom with seven points from nine engageme