The lack of cutting edge that was evident in the opening match of ISL 2016 came to haunt the Kerala Blasters again, as Atletico de Kolkata picked up a fourth consecutive win over their opponents, with a narrow victory at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Kochi on Wednesday.
Needing a win to get their season going, all the Blasters could do was watch on in horror as a Javi Lara strike was deflected in, which resulted in their second straight 1-0 defeat of the new Indian Super League season.
With a 60,000 strong sea of yellow cheering their team on, including the great Sachin Tendulkar and South Indian film stars Chiranjeevi and Nivin Pauly, the onus was on the Kerala Blasters to make the perfect home debut in ISL 2016. However, despite some decent phases here and there, particularly towards the end of the first half, Steve Coppell's men flattered to deceive, yet again.
If the Blasters, who had a poor record at home last season and did not have a single shot on target in this match, do not find their scoring boots soon, this could end up being another forgettable campaign for them, and the brilliant fans in Kochi certainly deserve better than that.
This, in some ways, was a better performance than the one against NorthEast United in Guwahati on Saturday, with a couple of decent chances coming their way, but that ability to put the ball into the back of the net went missing again.
Coppell stuck with the strike partnership of Antonio German and Duckens Nazon and the game plan was clear from the off – get the ball to them early and allow them to work combinations and find space to take strikes.
Nazon nearly created a golden one for German, with the former tricking his way down the Blasters left before laying the ball back for his fellow striker. German's first touch, however, let him down and the chance was gone. The Englishman would come closest for Kerala in the first half, with his strike from distance just flying over the crossbar.
At the other end, Atletico de Kolkata were dealt an early blow when Helder Postiga was forced off with a hip injury, which meant Juan Belencoso, the Spaniard, was given an opportunity to impress. He could have done that too had he reacted quicker, a couple of minutes after coming on, to a cross from the excellent Javi Lara, with the tall striker then also missing a wonderful chance early in the second half, when he sent his header wide.
Atletico, while not always the team in control, were the more dangerous outfit where it matters most, with Sameehg Doutie also forcing a strong save from Graham Stack with a shot from an angle in the first half.
The goal would come in the 53rd minute, with Lara taking a crack from distance, a shot which Stack seemingly had covered, only for the ball to take a deflection off Sandesh Jhingan and ripple the bottom corner of the net.
The first 15 minutes of the second 45 was all ATK, with the away side holding possession and cleverly taking the edge from the game. With a goal to chase, that only created more frustration in the Kerala Blasters camp, and while Coppell threw on Kervens Belfort and Michael Chopra in the final 20 minutes in a bid to at least find the equaliser, and the Blasters manager will say one of those substitutes should have given them at least a point.
Belfort, in stoppage time, went down inside the box under a challenge, and while the entire stadium screamed for a penalty, the referee decided to show the Blasters striker a yellow card for simulation. It was certainly not a dive, even if the penalty award might have been debatable, but the way the season has started for Kerala, that rub of the green, for the moment, is staying firmly in the opposition's camp.