The ATK manager weighed in on his opinions of superiority on the pitch and made stinging criticism of the refereeing decisions.

The opening game of the sixth edition of the Indian Super League saw Kerala Blasters edge past ATK in an exciting, tense, tight-knit affair with the Southerners coming from behind to win 2-1 against the men from the City of Joy, leaving the latter team’s head coach Antonio Habas fuming.

It was a full house at a raucous Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, Kochi with the Yellow Brigade in full attendance to watch the glitz and glam matched by the performance on the pitch. Kerala skipper Bartholomew Ogbeche scored a brace leading his side past the two-time champions, who had taken the early lead through Chris McHugh.

It was an action-packed game with loads of drama and all three goals coming in the first half and some highly contentious decision-making from match referee Sri Krishna.

The decisions of the referee particularly left ATK manager Antonio Lopez Habas red-faced and the 62-year old Spaniard didn’t mince his words on the result, considering his side to have been superior on the pitch.

Talking to reporters post-match, Antonio Habas was visibly upset at the result saying, “We were the better team on the pitch, creating 6-7 chances on goal and to lose is very distressing.”

Habas made the statement as a precursor to his criticism of the referee replying, “It was absolutely unfair. We had a clear penalty in the opening minutes which was ruled out by the referee, until then there was only one team on the pitch and it was ATK.”

He added, “We got the goal in the opening minutes and a fair score in the first half should’ve been 4-0 or 4-1 to ATK. But, instead it ended 2-1.”

The former Pune City coach who led ATK to the title in the inaugural season praised the efforts of his players, pointing to the performances of wingers Prabir Das and Michael Soosairaj stating, “I’m very happy with their performances. They are improving every day and today they were fantastic. Soosairaj has the ability to play in multiple positions, not just one.”

Having been left empty-handed for their efforts, Kolkata return to their sacred home to play Hyderabad FC (erstwhile FC Pune City), while Kerala having eked out a scratchy win welcome Mumbai City FC on the 24th.