The opening game of the Hero India Super League 2020/21 saw newly merged ATK Mohun Bagan take on Kerala Blasters in Bambolim, which promised a mouthwatering clash upfront.
The Mariners lined up in an unconventional 3-4-2-1 formation which saw David Williams left out on the bench and not paired with his usual strike partner Roy Krishna.
Kibu Vicuna’s new look Kerala Blasters lined up with a 4-3-3 as many of their new signings made full debuts. As the game went on, Kerala had less of an influence on the way things went about and ultimately they fell prey to their own defensive mistakes as Roy Krishna pounced with a poacher’s goal in the 67th minute.
The match eventually ended 1-0 in ATK Mohun Bagan’s favour, in what was an important winning start for Antonio Habas’ men.
For Kerala fans, the more disappointing aspect of the match would have been not making necessary inroads into the opponent’s territory with unwanted long shots and crucial chances missed. Samad was getting into the right areas, but ultimately failed in his shot execution and the yellow army did not really test ATKMB goalkeeper Arindam that often.
However, the positive for Kerala would have been their intent and the possession-based game that sometimes had crisp passing en route creating chances. For ATKMB fans in a course of a new history for the club, this start could not have gone any better for them. They defended well for the entirety of the 90 minutes and created enough chances to get the solo winner, courtesy of the fantastic Roy Krishna.
Overall, this game represented what Indian football fans had missed for a long, long time due to the pandemic. Witnessing the hunger and desire of all the ISL teams’ footballers, it probably feels like, despite empty stadiums, they will give it their all in terms of intensity and efforts.
The tournament’s first game has set down a marker of how things will progress and we can only hope the entertainment does not stop ahead of a cracking 3 months to come.