Seeing that a week has nearly passed since the game was played, it’s about time we revisited ATK’s smash and grab in the capital city of Delhi. Of course, it was none other than Josep Gombau’s Delhi Dynamos that were the hosts for Steve Coppell’s ATK. What made it work, though? Coming into the game, Coppell’s side had lost both games and failed to score, so the onus was really on the Kolkata side to produce the goods. In contrast, Delhi had a somewhat strong start to the season with a credible draw at home to Pune and were unfortunate not take all three points in that very game. Since the Delhi vs ATK game has been played, both sides have drawn once and Delhi are actually in action as I’m writing this (currently 0-0 at home to Chennaiyin).

Naturally, we’ll begin by looking at the respective line-ups from the game.

El-Maimouni Misses Out

At the request of almost everybody, Coppell opted to start with Uche. Naturally, that meant that another foreigner had to drop out. El-Maimouni was the unfortunate party. Inadvertently, it also meant that ATK’s starting XI was effectively split into two teams of five. Thatal, Everton, Uche, Balwant & Lanzarote were the ‘attacking’ team whereas the other five outfield players were the ‘defensive’ team. While it may have looked like that on paper, Everton played a deeper role than expected and essentially played alongside Pronay Halder, as the starting formations indicate.

For the home side, Gombau made three changes as he searches for his perfect blend. Crespi, Shubham & Vinit Rai were brought in for Zuiverloon, Tebar & Bikramjit. From a rather interesting perspective, none of the three that were withdrawn even made the bench, so maybe it was more than just tactical thinking behind Gombau’s decisions.

The Game Play Suited Coppell Down To The Ground

As I touched on in the preview, Gombau’s possession style of football meant that Coppell was right at home. Time and time again, I’ve mentioned the fact that Coppell is better coaching as an underdog so maybe it was a blessing in disguise that this game was being played away from home. From the get-go, it was clear that ATK were setting up in a clear system where everyone knew their roles. See below.

Halder (#17) was quick to pressure the ball while Balwant slotted into the two shielding the back four.

Even though it’s Halder chasing the ball, there is still the two sat in front of the back in four to protect them. Furthermore, the player on the far-right, who hasn’t got a red circle underneath him is also coming back into the picture to help support his teammates. You could argue and say that Delhi have got a promising situation if the ball was moved quick enough to the left as there is a two-on-one situation that could potentially arise, although Halder’s press on the ball makes that nigh on impossible.

To give you some idea of how well ATK defended in the first half, Delhi had 57% of the ball and five shots. That may not sound too good from a defensive standpoint, but when you take into account that three of the five shots were blocked and the other two were off target, you begin to see the bigger picture.

Pritam Kotal’s Desire To Follow The Ball Costs Delhi Dear

In the 20th minute of the first half, ATK broke the deadlock. Without trying to take anything away from Balwant (it was a magnificent finish), the goal was totally avoidable from a Delhi point of view. Gombau will have expected better of his captain. We begin with a rather innocuous situation where the ball is in the box and Balwant isn’t causing any trouble.

Balwant already has his eye on Kotal and knows that his attention isn’t 100% on him.

You’d like to think that Kotal (#20) knows that Balwant is behind him. If he does, great. However, why isn’t he keeping a closer eye on Balwant? There are more than enough white shirts to deal with the second phase of play once the header is brought down. It will become apparent why Balwant’s position is so important momentarily.

Kotal still hasn’t got eyes on Balwant.

Lanzarote (where the white pass line starts) is about to receive the ball. He then, first time, plays the ball to Balwant and in a blink of an eye, Kotal is out the game. As is illustrated, Kotal is still ball-watching. For a player that started India’s most recent game against China, it simply isn’t good enough if India want to make waves on the international scene.

Kotal Redeems Himself & Then Undoes His Good Work

Brilliant Balwant opens the scoring with a smart finish.

In Kotal’s defence, he does very well to recover and be in a position to win the ball back from Balwant. His good work is undone by his desire to make a rash decision, though. Balwant’s body shape tells you that he is going to cut back inside. Balwant’s ability with his right foot tells you he’s going to cut back inside. How doesn’t Kotal see this? A simple touch from Balwant means the ball completely bypasses Kotal and the ATK man bends it in the corner. If he didn’t score, one can only imagine the roasting he would have got off Kalu Uche, who found a bit of space by the penalty spot, as well.  

Kotal Does Actually Redeem Himself!

Neither Gombau nor Coppell blinked at halftime as they both sent out the same teams for the second period. There is nothing worse than trying to break down a Coppell side that has a lead and it can take a moment of brilliance or a lapse in concentration. Or, in this case, a collective lapse in concentration. Delhi won eight corner kicks in the second half, so there was maybe an inevitability that they would score from one of them. This one came from the right-hand side.

ATK have things under control at this point.

Before the corner is delivered, ATK are doing relatively well at keeping hold of their men. There are six Delhi players in the area and five of them have defenders in close quarters with them. Quite who is meant to be marking Nandhakumar (the one in front of the keeper), I am not so sure. Note Kotal’s (Delhi #20) position and his stance. He has already got half a yard on Balwant (ATK #15). In this instance, the dummy short corner has worked well because it has freed up more room in the area.

Kotal is basically afforded the freedom of Delhi by the lackadaisical ATK defence.

Look at how much room Kotal has got now! Balwant (white boots) has lost him completely, albeit, the man on the post should be more aware of the impending situation. Rana Gharami, who is rising pretty much unchallenged, smartly heads the ball back across to Kotal who does the honours of drawing Delhi level. It was so out of character for ATK to allow so much room in the area and they didn’t make the same mistake twice.

Delhi Knock & Knock On The Door, But Can’t Break It Down

After the goal, it was almost all Delhi. Adria Carmona and Romeo were brought on by Gombau as he sought a way through the packed ATK defence. Vinit Rai, in particular, was a crucial part of Delhi’s dominance. The 21-year-old completed 86.8% of his passes as almost everything came through him. See Delhi’s pass map, below.

Vinit Rai (16) appears in four of the top six links from the game, as you can see. He and Naryan Das like to interchange the ball a lot, with Narayan then feeding the ball to Chhangte who has pace to burn. He (Vinit) is not totally one dimensional though, eight passes into the Slovenian, Mihelic, demonstrate this. Ultimately, ATK’s defence stood strong though as their ability to turn defence into attack shone through and won them the game.

Much like the first image, ATK are disciplined and set up in such a way which makes them almost impenetrable.

At this point, the eventual matchwinner, El-Maimouni has been brought on for Uche in a move which signalled that Coppell was somewhat happy with a point. Rane was brought on for Komal Thatal ten minutes beforehand and both Rane and El-Maimouni would combine for the winner. ATK’s two strong units of four and three respectively show that they weren’t rattled by the earlier goal and they still believed in Coppell and his system.

Another Avoidable Goal For Delhi

ATK soar forward with great speed and menace which left Delhi with little chance.

A full 70 seconds after the image before this, ATK find themselves on the charge. 4 vs 3 in ATK’s favour. Lanzarote has the ball at his feet, Everton has reverted to his favoured forward position after the withdrawal of Uche and Rane and El-Maimouni are making their way from deep. It’s a disastrous situation from a defensive angle as the outcome seems like it’s set in stone. Be that as it may, it’s not over until it’s over and eventually, Delhi could’ve prevented it.

The Delhi defenders are drawn to the ball like a moth to light.

Jayesh Rane is driving with the ball and even though it’s perhaps understandable considering the point in time we are at, Delhi’s defenders all moving towards him is inexcusable. El-Maimouni intelligently almost comes to a standstill as he knows what is about to happen. Just to reiterate, all three Delhi defenders are on the move towards Rane, leaving the other two ATK players completely out in the open.

Rane lays the ball back to the unmarked El-Maimouni who says thank you very much and wins the game for ATK.

All it takes is a simple change of pace from Rane and the two onrushing Delhi defenders are out of the game. I can’t be sure, but it wouldn’t surprise me if that’s Kotal on the deck. He certainly had an eventful game. Anyway, rather selflessly, Rane pulls the ball back to El-Maimouni who doesn’t need asking twice. The Moroccan had only been on the pitch for two minutes at that point. He must have thought it was his lucky day.

Keep Ball Works For Coppell

Even though they made 129 fewer passes, ATK’s passing structure is there for all to see.

All of the top five links all include at least one defender. Three of the top five include two defenders. It just goes to show, that if you remain patient and bide your time, the chance will come. On the contrary, ATK won’t always find themselves on the backfoot in games, so Coppell will have to invent a Plan B for when they’re the dominant of the two sides. On the whole, ATK will probably be a bigger threat on their travels than they will be at home in Kolkata. An intriguing situation, indeed.


Gombau will have been pleased with the performance that his side put in, nonetheless, two errors cost them. Both goals shouldn’t and wouldn’t’ve happened if the defence was more switched on to what was going around them. The same can be said about Coppell; he will have been delighted with three points, but still aggrieved about the goal they conceded. In closing, it was a fantastic game to watch as two opposite styles clashed.

Until the next time.