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2016 Indian Super League, 2016 Indian Super League
  • Stephen Pearson (18')
  • C.K. Vineeth (8')

Kolkata march into semis post Kerala draw

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Atletico de Kolkata 1-1 Kerala Blasters FC (1:42)

Stephen Pearson cancelled out CK Vineeth's opener and booked Kolkata a place in the semi-finals of ISL 2016. (1:42)

Atletico de Kolkata and Kerala Blasters played out a 1-1 draw at the Rabindra Sarobar stadium and with this, Atletico have confirmed a place in the last four for the third consecutive season in a row.

Kerala's hopes still hang in the balance and a draw in their final home game against NorthEast United will take them through effectively. This also means that FC Pune City and Chennaiyin FC are out of contention and Delhi Dynamos are through the play-offs together with Mumbai City FC. So the battle for the last two places will now be between NorthEast United and Kerala.

NorthEast play Delhi Dynamos next and they will have to win or else Kerala will go through.

This also makes Atletico the only team to have made the last four in all three seasons with FC Goa and Chennaiyin FC out of contention.

It was the visitors who opened the scoring early on through CK Vineeth after a howler from Debjit Majumder in the 8th minute of the game. Stephen Pearson equalized 10 minutes later and the game that started at a good pace ended with a rather lethargic pace with both teams happy to settle for a point.

Atletico welcomed back Ian Hume to the starting line-up and Juan Belencoso had to be content with a place on the bench. Steve Coppell beefed up the midfield to counter Atletico's midfield threat, with Ishfaq Ahmed and Mehtab Hossain playing together for the first time this season.

However, Atletico dominated the midfield, keeping the ball on their side for over 60% of the time in the first period, but it was Kerala who took the lead through a goal-keeping error. Mehtab put in a curling cross from a free-kick in which Atletico keeper Debjit fumbled. Cedric Hengbart, just five yards from goal, picked out Vineeth on his left with a first touch, and the forward headed in his fourth goal of the season - making him the joint highest scoring Indian with Kean Lewis of Delhi Dynamos.

The home side put the goal behind them and found the equaliser 10 minutes later with a move executed to perfection. After a wild shot at goal, Helder Postiga played a clever one-two with Hume, before finding Pearson with an inch-perfect pass. The first time pass dissected the Kerala back-line and Pearson scored his second in as many games with a simple tap-in from close range.

Kervens Belfort was Atletico's main threat on the left-flank creating most of the chances for the visitors in the first half, while Atletico attacked through the axis of Borja, Javi Lara and Postiga with Rui Das often getting into dangerous positions on the left.

The half ended with a couple of decent chances for both sides but it was Kerala who should have taken the lead early in the second.

Aaron Hughes, coming of a match-winning display in the last game, almost found Mehtab's cross in the 55th minute. Mehtab was in the thick of things for the visitors, having being handed the responsibility of taking most set-pieces. However Kerala's talisman will miss the next match after getting booked for a needless kick of a dead ball in frustration after Hughes' missed chance.

Half-way into the second period, it looked as if both teams were content with a point each, as apart from a few glimpses of goal-bound action, there was nothing to threaten the two goalkeepers.

Kerala host NorthEast in five days and have their fate in their own hands. NorthEast, however, have to play on Wednesday and travel to Kochi, giving Kerala a slight edge due to a greater period of rest.

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