Luis Garcia fired in a stunning header in the second half to help Atletico de Kolkata end their four-match winless run by registering a 1-0 win over NorthEast United FC in their return leg ISL fixture at the Vivekananda Yuva Bharati Krirangan on Tuesday.
Garcia struck in the 51st minute, beating the towering Spanish World Cup winner Joan Capdevilla in the middle and the win helped ATK go three points clear of Chennaiyin FC in the lead position.
It was Borja Fernandez who brilliantly intercepted the ball and passed it on to Jofre Mateu whose measured cross from the left set up Garcia for the match winner.
Atletico now have 16 points from nine matches. They have four away and one home game left.
The scoreline could easily have been 2-0 but sub Arnal Llibert squandered an easy opportunity after being set up by Sanju Pradhan in front of an open net.
If NEUFC were brilliant with their defence, they were equally pathetic with their attack with the Indian duo of Durga Boro and Alen Deory wasting chances which derailed their recovery plans.
NEUFC had the best chance in the 83rd minute when Alen put in a great ball inside the six-yard box but an unmarked Seimeinlen Doungel wasted the free header only to put the ball over the bar.
Earlier, NEUFC made two changes to their starting line-up bringing in Massamba Lo Sambou in the central midfield and Durga Boro up front in place of Len Doungel and James Keene.
ATK, on the other hand, replaced Biswajit Saha with N Mohanraj in the backline in the only change to their line-up.
The first-half was full of intensity as both NEUFC and ATK went hammer and tongs to go one up.
ATK were sharp with their attack but it was the visitors’ Spanish World Cup winner Capdevilla who stood in their way.
NEUFC, on the other hand, had better ball possession and got as many as five corners in the first-half but with an innocuous attack in the Indian duo of Alen Deory and Durga Boro, the Guwahati franchise cut a sorry figure.
Garcia had an inspiring surge in the sixth minute but he was a tad faster than his striking partner as ATK took some time to settle down.
ATK’s first real opening came in the 11th minute when NEUFC goalkeeper TP Rehenesh brought down Fikru on the edge of the box in the right flank but the defence proved too strong once again.
The home side once again had a taste of NEUFC’s strong defence when Garcia’s powerful right footer from the edge of the box was blocked brilliantly by Capdevila in a 29th minute.