Atletico de Kolkata spurned the golden opportunity of making best use of home advantage as they were held to a goalless draw by FC Goa in the first-leg semifinal of the Hero Indian Super League on Sunday.
ATK might have been down with injuries to three key players in Arnab Mondal, Biswajit Saha and Fikru Teferra but the home team had the best chance on the day Goa too played with a fragile defence.
There was no Bruno Pinheiro (suspended) and even left back Narayan Das had to be replaced early on after an injury but ATK failed to breach the fragile Goan defence with an uninspiring display barring the brilliance of their Spanish captain Luis Garcia.
ATK was not short on support as over 50,000 boisterous fans kept cheering for the ‘Red and Whites’ but Garcia was severely let down by his lieutenants and the fans just had to return home disappointed in the last home match for Kolkata this season.
With no Fikru, who so far played the only forward’s role in Antonio Habas 4-3-2-1 formation, their was no sting in their attack that was led by Keralite striker Mohammad Rafi.
Rakesh Masih, who played alongside Borja Fernandes in the central midfield performed below-par and was a complete mismatch to Garcia’s effective ball control and measured passing.
From the Goa team’s perspective, the away draw would certain be a morale booster as they just need to win by a solitary goal margin in their return semi-final leg at home December 17 to book a ticket to Mumbai for the summit clash December 20.
The Kolkata outfit failed to win from six matches with their last win coming against North East United FC, way back on November 18 and since then they have suffered two losses.
Brazilian legend Zico’s team on the otherhand are in the middle of a nine-match unbeaten run that included five wins as they will start clear favourites at in the semi last leg at home.
Goa suffered a setback early on after their impressive left-back Das sustained a right knee injury after a bad fall.
Garcia was behind the Goan defender but there wasn’t any touch as Das twisted his leg and was later replaced by Peter Carvalho to give their defence a big blow.
But it was of little consequence in ATK’s perspective as Rakesh Masih and Co severely let down Garcia’s fine moves.
The former Champions League winner for Liverpool was impressive right from the word go as he not only initiated their raids but controlled the ball in the midfield and for a moment it seemed that FCG are playing against one man in Garcia.
While ATK had the more share of the attack in the first half there was no open opportunity but FCG played as a unit and were bolstered by the return of the trio of Andre Santos, Miroslav Slepicka and Romeo Fernandes.
The visitors had the only real chance in the first period when an unmarked Romeo could only find the side net after getting the possession from Mandar Tamhane in the 18th minute.
Earlier Atletico de Kolkata made four changes to their starting line-up, Arnab Mondal, Biswajit Saha, Baljit Sahni and Fikru are replaced by Luis Garcia, Sanju Pradhan, Lester Fernandez and Rakesh Masih.