Noussair El Maimouni’s second-half goal after coming on as a substitute enough to give ATK a comprehensive 2-1 win over Delhi Dynamos at the JLN Stadium on Wednesday.
The match saw either sides midfielders struggling to hold on to the ball. Regular turnovers, however, didn’t result in clear-cut chances to score.
ATK was slightly better of the two sides and showed intent with their press. Manuel Lanzarote and Kalu Uche led their attack, as they combined well and surged forward. Their threat going forward regularly put the Delhi backline out of position, also leaving Balwant in a space inside the box.
The former Mumbai City striker took a lot of time to get his shot away. When he finally did, it was easily read and parried away by goalkeeper Shubham Sarangi who had tracked back.
Delhi’s insistence on playing all out defensive almost gifted ATK a goal. Dorronsoro’s pass to Vinit Rai was intercepted by Pronay Halder in the midfield. The midfielder then released Uche into the box. The former Delhi Dynamos striker tricked Rana Gharami with a couple of shoulder drops before shooting at goal. The goalie, however, made amends by going low to keep out the forward’s effort.
Delhi’s luck ran out as their sloppiness was punished in the 20th minute with a lovely piece of build-up play. Ricky Lallawmawma won the ball high up the pitch and lobbed it to Lanzarote. The midfielder, in turn, played a quick one-two with Halder before crossing to find Balwant in the box. Balwant cut inside to send Pritam Kotal the wrong way and neatly curled a shot into the top right corner of the net.
Even though ATK ended the first-half as the better side, the hosts soon responded right after the break with a goal through a set piece.
Narayan Das took the 54th-minute corner kick towards the far post which was headed in the back of the net by Rana Gharami. The bullet header was also guided into the net by Pritam Kotal to bring the hosts back into the contention.
The Lion’s recharged batteries put Coppell’s side to the sword as the second-half progressed. They took grew into the game and looked to be in control of the game for the first time. In fact, they were the team that looked like finding a winner. The substitution of Adian Carmona in place of Shubham Sarangi seemed to make a difference until the 84th minute when Steve Coppell too responded with a substitution of his own.
For the Kolkata outfit, Noussair El Maimouni came on for Kalu Uche and made an instant impact. Winning the ball off Carmona from his own half, the striker embarked on what was a lung-busting run forward. Thereafter he played it to Lanzarote who in turn found Jayesh Rane with space to the right. Rane fluently entered the box and cut the ball back to Maimouni. He finished the task placed his effort well past Dorronsoro. That ultimately turned out to be the winner.
The win was a huge boost for ATK, who also registered their first points on the league table.