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Smarting from a defeat on the opening day of the new season, Atletico de Kolkata (ATK) will look to get their act together and register a win when they take on NorthEast Uniited FC (NEUFC) at the Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan here on Thursday.
ATK suffered a 0-2 loss against Kerala Blasters here last Saturday. The home side looked toothless in attack as David James' wards were the better team for the majority of the match.
Kalu Uche did not start the game with James admitting after the game that he was surprised why ATK coach Steve Coppell did not start with the Nigerian striker.
When asked about Uche's exclusion from the starting eleven, Coppell said that he didn't want to rush him back into the team but felt that the team needed his presence during the second half.
"He had been travelling all night. We really didn't want to use him. Just towards the end, we thought we could use his steadying influence, just before they scored," Coppell explained.
Fit-again Eugeneson Lyngdoh was a second half substitute in the last game and indications are that along with Kalu, the highly rated midfielder will also start against NorthEast.
ATK were listless in the first half although the best chance to nod ahead fell to Jayesh Rane as an swinging corner from El Maimouni Noussair found the young attacker with acres of space in the six-yard box, but he was unable to direct his header on target.
Both teams failed to impose themselves in the second half but Kerala's incessant efforts finally paid dividends in the last quarter of the match when they found two goals in the space of 10 minutes.
"We couldn't really get any penetration. We were never really successful in set pieces also. We have got an awful lot of work to do to bring out the best from the players we have," Coppell had said after the game.
For the visitors, an entertaining 2-2 draw against FC Goa at home saw them earn one point.
NorthEast debutants Federico Gallego and Bartholomew Ogbeche were on target and coach Eelco Schattorie stressed after the game that given the inexperience and lack of fitness of some of his players, they did really well.
"If we look at our pre-season, we needed two more weeks to get fit. We have not been really tested in terms of our fitness. So, the result that we got was a good one. Goa is with the same coach and almost the same players," Schattorie said.
"So, their strategy and way of playing are implemented and for us, we are still playing. We got a bit of a lucky goal in the first half. In the second, we did pretty well except for the last 10-12 minutes. But overall, I am happy with the 2-2," he added.
Talking about TP Rehenesh, the 46-year-old commended his performance throughout the 90 minutes and also leapt to his defence after the custodian came under criticism.
"I think TP made some good saves throughout the game. I think like any goalkeeper in India, he lacks certain stability. He can sometimes take lesser risks but overall, I am happy that he is in our team," Schattorie opined.
Both teams endured wretched runs last season with NorthEast finishing rock-bottom and ATK a rung above them.
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