Kolkata: Robbie Keane’s managerial debut sweetly coincided with ATK’s first win in nine matches and ensured they avoided the wooden spoon with a timely 1-0 victory against NorthEast United at the Yuba Bharati Krirangan Stadium here on Sunday.
Keane scored on the night, taking his tally to six goals in nine matches and in third successive game ensuring his debut as a player-manager ended as planned and on the safer side.
It also meant that in a season ATK, who started as the defending champions, finished ninth in 16 points after 18 games, seven of which came from Keane’s vital goals in victories over NorthEast United and Delhi Dynamos and a 1-1 draw against FC Goa.
Desperate for a win after a hat-trick of losses and eight in the last nine, Keane struck 11 minutes into the game with the outside of his boot after reading Connor Thomas’s accurate long ball from his own half.
The long balls behind the visitors’ defence looked like a plan devised to catch them off guard and nearly earned ATK a second goal, when Anwar Ali found Sibongakonke Mbatha’s run but the latter failed to slot the ball home.
This was in the first-half and NorthEast soon began controlling things as ATK moved into a shell. That allowed the Visitors more space in the wings and they used it to the fullest often breaking in with crosses. But John Mosquera’s off day —- he missed three golden opportunities — meant NorthEast United remained winless in their last eight fixtures.
The only time Mosquera scored he was ruled offside and when he wasn’t he fluffed all chances. The first had come after he went clear on goal from a Holicharan Narzary ball but hit straight at ATK custodian Sonam Poirei. The next was in the 53rd minute and after Rowlin Borges bossed over Shankar Sampingiraj and found the the Colombian.
Poirei was well at the task throughout the game putting up regular saves to give ATK their first clean-sheet in over nine games.
The clean-sheet also came about as a big achievement especially after conceding nine in the last two. Incidently ATK’s last win had also come against NorthEast United by one margin of goals and the double victory was their fourth overall win this season.
NorthEast on the other finished last on 11 points after 18 matches and along with ATK next play the Super Cup qualifiers in between March March 12 to March 31.