Kochi: Kerala Blasters outclassed two-time champions ATK in the opening match of the sixth edition of the Hero Indian Super League at the Jawaharlal Nehru International Stadium here on Sunday.
Two-time champions ATK scored their 100th goal in the Hero Indian Super League but that wasn’t enough to provide them with any joy in the match.
The game got off to an electrifying start with the visitors stunning the packed crowd early in the game.
ATK capitalized on a free-kick given for a foul on Jayesh Rane by Jeakson Singh. The set-piece into the box was cushioned back for McHugh by Agustin García Iniguez at the far post. The Irishman went on to slam a brilliant first-time volley with his left foot that gave Bilal Khan in the Kerala goal no chance whatsoever.
ATK continued to press Kerala relentlessly and fashioned several chances to double their lead, the best of which came in the 22nd minute. Roy Krishna embarked on a sizzling run from midfield, going past a couple of Kerala defenders into the box, but opted to slide it for Javier Hernandez rather than shoot himself and the ball trickled away.
A rattled Kerala were handed a lifeline into the game when ATK winger Michael Soosairaj went down in the box under Sergio Cidoncha’s challenge. But the referee waved away the protests and Kerala won a corner from the ensuing counter-attack.
The Men in Yellow started to enjoy more time on the ball following the equalizer and stormed into the lead just before half-time. Pronay failed to clear a low cross from Prasanth Karuthadathkuni and the loose ball was driven in smartly by a lurking Ogbeche.
Kerala continued their ascendancy at the start of the second half as well, keeping the ball well and forcing errors from ATK.
The result sees Kerala get the better of ATK in their ISL opener once again, having recorded a 2-0 win last season in Kolkata.