Kolkata, Oct 13: Inspired by the presence of Brazilian great Pele, defending champions Atletico de Kolkata (ATK) climbed to the top of the table with a 2-1 win over last year's runners-up Kerala Blasters FC (KBFC) in their first home match of the Indian Super League (ISL) here today.
Watched by the all time great Pele who had earlier met them at the team hotel, ATK packed a punch and scored through Arata Izumi (sixth) and Javier Lara (53rd).
Having missed a penalty in the ISL opener in Chennai, Lara was the key man for ATK as he stood out with his set-piece movements and was adjudged man-of-the-match.
Coached by former English international Peter Taylor, cricket legend Sachin Tendulkar co-owned KBFC were unimpressive in most parts and showed some urgency in the later stages when Chris Dagnall (80th) pulled one back from a CK Vineeth header.
But there was a setback in store for the visitors who were reduced to 10 players in the 89th minute after Mehtab Hossain received his second yellow in front of his home crowd.
10-man KBFC intensified pressure through Dagnall who had a brilliant shot in the stoppage time but ATK keeper Juan Calatayud thwarted his effort.
ATK, co-owned by former Indian cricket captain Sourav Ganguly, climbed to the top of the table with seven points from three matches ahead of FC Pune City (six).
Watched by Pele, the hosts were off to an attacking start and almost went ahead in the fifth minute but the crosspiece came in the way of a powerful Lara rightfooter.
But Lara was in the centre of attack in the following minute when he set up Iain Hume brilliantly from the midfield and the Canadian forward followed it up with a left footed shot on goal.
Kerala keeper Stephen Bywater came in the way but could not hold the ball which took the deflection and Arata was there to pounce on it slotting it into the top corner.
Arata, who had given the lead in their 1-1 draw in Goa, thus brought up his second goal of the season. The all-English attack in Sanchez Watt and Chris Dagnall mainly remained immobile as it was mostly a one-way traffic for ATK who held the possession for most part of the match.
Local lad and KBFC midfielder Mehtab Hossain committed several fouls and also had a fine chance in the 38th minute but his powerful shot into the top corner was brilliantly thwarted by ATK keeper Calatayud.
ATK were in full control of the match and displayed fine passing game and the visitors had no answer and mostly had to do all the running.
ATK were 2-0 up when Hume set up Lara who made his way into the box cutting past a defender before unleashing his rightfooter that took a slight deflection of Peter Ramage before getting into the net.
Missing several of their key players including marquee recruit Helder Postiga, Habas made four changes to his line-up and a major overhaul in the defence.
Calatayud replaced Amrinder Singh under the bar while the side was bolstered by the reliable Josmei who returned from injury at the centre of the defence.
Left back Mohanraj replaced Tiri while in the attack, Nadong Bhutia came in place of the suspended Baljit Sahni.
Mohan is known for his long throw abilities and with Bheke already being a sucess when it comes to lofting one into the box, there is no questioning as to why Mohan can't replicate the same for his team.
Peter Taylor handed Saumik Dey his first start at the cost of CK Vineeth, as KBFC made four changes bringing in Shankar Sampingiraj in the midfield, while Josu Currias and Sanchez Watt were also named in the starting XI.