Kolkata: Kerala Blasters FC picked up an important 1-0 win against ATK in the Indian Super League (ISL), thanks to a second-half strike by Halicharan Narzary at the Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan here on Sunday.
After a barren first period, an action-packed second half saw Narzary break the deadlock in the 74th minute. ATK were guilty of wasting a host of chances and saw coach Antonio Habas sent off after a fracas on the sidelines towards the end of the game.
A second win on the trot saw Kerala Blasters rise to sixth on the table with 14 points while ATK remain third with 21 points.
ATK and Kerala were without the services of David Williams and Gianni Zuiverloon, respectively, due to injuries. Antonio Habas handed a rare start to Balwant Singh who led the line alongside Roy Krishna, while Eelco Schattorie opted for a centre-back partnership of Abdul Hakku and Vlatko Drobarov.
It was a cagey start as the teams struggled to create clear-cut opportunities. The visitors saw a lot of the ball while ATK chose to play on the counter.
The first chance fell for Kerala when from a set-piece, the ball fell for Raphael Messi Bouli whose shot took a deflection of Balwant Singh and went wide.
Bartholomew Ogbeche had a big role to play in Kerala's defence as he came to his team's rescue with two important blocks that denied Krishna in the 35th and 36th minutes.
Javi Hernandez's free-kick found its way to Krishna whose shot was first kept out by Ogbeche. The very next minute saw Javi and Krishna combine, with the latter's header being cleared for a corner from the goal line by the Nigerian.
Mandi Sosa also came close to handing ATK the lead with a free-kick that missed the far post by a couple of inches.
ATK started the second half with purpose, troubling the Kerala defence with their movement. Prabir Das sent a through-ball for Krishna in the 57th minute, but the Fijian striker took a heavy touch which allowed goalkeeper T.P. Rehenesh to come off his line and make a block.
Minutes later, Krishna did well to lay off the ball for Balwant Singh on the edge of the box, but his first-time shot went inches wide of the target.
Habas made twin change midway through the second half as he introduced Jayesh Rane and Jobby Justin to add more teeth to their attack.
However, the breakthrough was made by Kerala against the run of play. In the 70th minute, Narzary pounced on a poor clearance outside the ATK box, took a touch and slammed it home with his right foot, giving goalkeeper Arindam Bhattacharya no chance whatsoever.
A stung ATK could have equalised when Krishna brought a cross down inside the box, swivelled and sent a powerful effort on target, but Rehenesh got down in time to keep the ball out.
Kerala could have doubled their lead too, with Mario Arques and Moustapha Gning going extremely close. However, it did not matter as Kerala upset the apple cart in Kolkata.