The southern outfit led twice but were pegged back on both occasions.
Bulgarian football legend Dimitar Berbatov scored his first goal in the Hero Indian Super League for Kerala Blasters FC but it counted for little in the end as the visitors were held 2-2 by ATK at Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan, Kolkata, on Thursday.
Kerala Blasters twice took the lead, first through Gudjon Baldvinsson (33 minutes) and then through Dimitar Berbatov (55 minutes) but goals from Ryan Taylor (38 minutes) and Tom Thorpe (75 minutes) helped cancel the leads.
The draw helped ATK arrest their four losses in a row and secured the first point for interim coach Ashley Westwood but doesn’t help their chances of qualification. ATK now have 13 points from 14 matches and have seen their chances of qualification go up in smoke.
Watch: ATK 2-2 Kerala Blasters highlights
Kerala Blasters will also be disappointed with the point. They have temporarily displaced FC Goa from the sixth spot with 21 points compared to FC Goa’s 20, but have played three extra matches.
The clash between last year’s finalists, now struggling in this edition of the Hero ISL, started tentatively and sprang to life only towards the later half of the first 45 minutes. Kerala Blasters were the first to break the deadlock in the 33rd minute as Baldvinsson found the mark.
A good cross in the danger zone from Prasanth saw Baldvinsson jump highest and head towards goal where it hit the shoulder of ATK defender Jordi Montel and sailed past the goalkeeper.
ATK needed five minutes to get on level scores as they capitalised on a defensive lapse. Milan Singh tried to play the ball forward but it was intercepted by Taylor. He then took his time and picked his spot as the ball deflected off Lalruatthara and sailed past Kerala goalkeeper Subhashish Roy Chowdhury.
The teams were tied 1-1 at half time and Kerala once again took the lead when play resumed in the second session. It was former Manchester United forward Berbatov who gave them the lead with his first goal of the season. Jackichand Singh’s free-kick was flicked on by Nemanja Lakic-Pesic and fell to Berbatov on top of the box. The Bulgarian sharpshooter connected neatly and picked the bottom left corner of the goal for a classy finish.
It seemed like Berbatov’s goal would be enough for Kerala Blasters but ATK hit back with the equaliser in the 74th minute after going close on a couple of occasions.
Taylor's corner was first cleared by the Kerala defence but the ball traveled back to the flank where Taylor sent in another measured cross which Thorpe did well to connect from inside a crowded goalmouth.
In the end, ATK managed to hold on to that draw and won their first point in five matches, while Kerala were left to rue a final chance in the final minute when Thorpe cleared Baldvinsson’s attempt on the goalline.