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ISL 2014: Early days but Atletico de Kolkata look the team to beat

A week and just first round of matches to analyse, but the spotlight in the inaugural season of the ISL is for the moment decisively on early leaders Atletico de Kolkata.

Jaspreet Sahni | News18 Sportshttp://jaspreet_sahni

Updated:October 20, 2014, 7:51 AM IST
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ISL 2014: Early days but Atletico de Kolkata look the team to beat
A week and just first round of matches to analyse, but the spotlight in the inaugural season of the ISL is for the moment decisively on early leaders Atletico de Kolkata.

A week and just first round of matches to analyse is undoubtedly too early to make any predictions, but the spotlight in the inaugural season of the Indian Super League (ISL) is for the moment decisively on Atletico de Kolkata.

Donning the stripes of Spanish giants Atletico Madrid, the franchise's co-owners, the team from Kolkata appears an intimidating site on the pitch, especially when the football-crazy Kolkattans are shouting their lungs off at the Salt Lake Stadium.

The fluidity about Kolkata's game stands out among the performance of eight teams in week one. The synchronised and organised nature of their attacks shows them as the best team at this nascent stage of the tournament.

And it also appears in their scoring rate, which currently stands at two per game having netted the ball six times in three games - with the only slightly disappointing result being the 1-1 draw against Delhi Dynamos on Sunday.

The Delhi game was, in fact, the only occasion where Kolkata conceded after keeping a clean sheet against Mumbai City FC (3-0) and away against Northeast United FC (2-0) in Guwahati.

That also brings into focus Subhasish Roy Chowdhury in the Kolkata post. The hometown boy has been in exemplary form for his team with decisive foot and hand movement.

Whether its tipping a teaser over the bar or timing a dive to punch a swinging free-kick away, Chowdhury has stood as a wall for Kolkata, spurred on by the huge support, especially in the opening game of the season at home against Mumbai.

Kolkata forwards, primarily Fikru Teferra, and the midfield, shepherd by Luis Garcia, have backed Chowdhury's stellar job in defence, resulting in two wins in three games and top slot on the leader-board with seven points.

Ethiopian striker Fikru can always be spotted lurking in the opposition's half, looking to pick a loose ball or a long aerial pass that has often resulted from Garcia's out-of-the-box thinking.

Garcia, the attacking midfielder who has played for Liverpool and Barcelona during his heydays, has been exceptional with his cut-through passes that has been complemented well by Fikru threatening to score every time he gets onto the ball near the box.

Garcia, 36, and Fikru, 28, have 8 years separating them in age, which has been smartly worked by Kolkata manager Antonio Habas. While using Garcia largely only as a playmaker and sparingly as an attacking midfielder, Habas has given the super-fit Fikru license to thrill.

Fikru's superlative attacking instincts came to the fore in the tournament opener against Mumbai where he ran perfectly to get in front of a couple of defenders to first chest the aerial pass and then volley it in to send the crowd bobbing in the stands. The goal also found a place in top five strikes from week one, listed on the official Indian Super League website.

Not surprisingly then, Kolkata are reaping the benefits of three men in superman form, but Fikru and Garcia in attack and Chowdhury in the post are the flag-bearers of that happiness for the 'City of Joy' that looks the favourite to finish on top. But, early days yet.

STANDINGS at the end of week one.

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