"I love it when there is pressure", said Atletico de Kolkata's new marquee player Helder Postiga in the pre-match press conference. With everyone expecting Postiga to show why he is such a highly-regarded player, the Portugal international certainly did not disappoint, scoring two goals – including the first of the Indian Super League 2015 – to knock the stuffing out of the home team Chennaiyin FC.
The majority of the fans at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Chennai were left disappointed, as a Postiga double and a neat header from Valmiro Lopes Rocha gave Atletico de Kolkata a 3-2 win over Chennaiyin FC in the opening match of ISL 2015.
Chennaiyin came from behind to level once, in the first half from Jeje Lalpekhlua, but a second comeback, which needed two goals, fell just short, as an Elano penalty late on wasn't enough to give the home team a share of the spoils.
The game started on a bright note for Chennaiyin, with Elano looking dangerous almost immediately, as a wonderful turn and forward movement earned the home team a corner in the opening moments. A goal might have come off that corner as well, had Jeje, the outstanding Chennaiyin player of the first half, been able to direct his header on target.
Atletico had hardly got into the game, but, as is so often the case, they found themselves a goal up thanks to a massive error from the home team in the 13th minute.
A harmless freekick was floated in by Borja, with Edel Bete coming out to catch the ball. It looked like that was that, only for the Chennaiyin goalkeeper to crash into his own teammate Mailson Alves, and in the process drop the ball. That dropped ball fell to Postiga, who netted into the open net for the easiest goal he will score in the ISL this season.
Atletico, after the opening goal, started to take control of the match for the next ten minutes or so, dictating the pace of play – which to be honest was quite slow, understandable considering the heat and humidity in Chennai – to try and frustrate Chennaiyin further.
That control, though, would not last too long, as Fikru Teferra, not too impressive against his former team, fired a shot wide, before causing chaos in the ATK box, which allowed Jeje to equalise.
A cross from Elano, menacing at times, ineffective the other, saw Fikru challenge for the high ball with the Atletico de Kolkata goalkeeper Amrinder Singh, with the ball then dropping for Jeje to slot home from close-range.
The score held till halftime, and with the humidity getting to both teams, the pace of play slowed down even more, with a draw looking likely.
However, Chennaiyin, without Marco Materazzi on the bench, knowing the importance of picking up home wins in the ISL, sent in Stiven Mendoza – they had already brought on Bernard Mendy as a halftime substitute – to try and increase the pace of the Chennaiyin attacks.
Apart from a half-chance here and there, though, Mendoza could not do much, and Atletico, playing the perfect away game, snatched the second goal on 70 minutes.
A misplaced headed backpass from Mendy allowed Postiga, ever the poacher, to nip in, shirk the challenge of Lalhmangaihsanga Ralte, before expertly finishing through the legs of Bete.
Postiga had to be taken off immediately after getting injured, but that proved to be a blessing in disguise for Atletico, as the man who replaced him – Rocha – finished the game off on 76 minutes, heading in from six yards off a cross from Iain Hume.
It could have been a lot worse for Chennaiyin as the home team started to fall apart, with Mendy giving away a penalty for handling the ball inside the area. Javier Lara Grande, so good otherwise, however, let Chennaiyin and Mendy off the hook by firing in a weak spotkick, which Bete kept out well.
Two goals in the final ten minutes was always going to be impossible, and despite a concerted effort, Atletico, always so much more assured at the back, held on for the opening victory of ISL 2015, despite a penalty from Elano causing a few heartaches for the away side in the final minutes.