Nervy Arindam Bhattacharya must show consistency against Chennaiyin

Although the former India international has pulled off top saves in this ISL, he has looked shaky at times and conceded at critical junctures…

A cup final often does not offer a player a second chance to redeem himself. The chances are slimmer if you happen to be the man with the gloves.

Liverpool had to pay a hefty price for Loris Karius’ debacle in a UEFA Champions League final against Real Madrid whereas his compatriot Oliver Kahn had to surrender the biggest prize in football to Brazil for a blunder in the World Cup final in 2002.

A shot-stopper can ill-afford to lose his focus as all the hard work put in can be undone in a moment of fallacy.

Arindam Bhattacharya has had already a narrow escape in the semi-finals of the Indian Super League (ISL) against Bengaluru FC. His performance graph in the last few games almost resembles an electrocardiogram report of a heart patient with steep highs and equally sharp lows.

Against Chennaiyin FC at the Salt Lake Stadium, he misjudged the flight of the ball from a corner that allowed Andre Schembri to head home from close range. But a few minutes earlier, he had made a diving save to his right to keep out a pile-driver from Edwin Vanspaul which looked destined to ripple the net.

Inconsistency has been the plight of the 30-year old ATK keeper. He has lost concentration in moments of pressure and the opposition has ruthlessly punished him for his slips. The loss against Chennaiyin dashed ATK’s hopes of an AFC Champions League spot whereas his error against Bengaluru could have cost his team a spot in the ISL final.

In the first-leg at the Kanteerava, the keeper failed to collect cleanly a shot from Juanan and Deshorn Brown made him pay by poking the loose ball into the net. He made a meal of a save that is considered to be bread-and-butter for a keeper at any standard.

But apart from that blip, he was solid under the sticks in that game. With a fingertip save he denied Sunil Chhetri in the second half to ensure ATK were just down by a goal at the end of the first leg.

Could he have done better to keep out Ashique Kuruniyan’s opener in the return leg? Well, some might argue that he should have come out of his line and made the angle narrower for the winger.

Again in the final quarter, he brought out his brilliant best to stop Kervaughn Frater in a one-on-one situation. If that had gone in, then the Blues would have been on that flight to Goa instead of the two-time champions. Therefore, it is evident that it is not about his quality, but his tendency to loose his footing at critical junctures. 

He has been fortunate once but destiny might not favour him all the time and especially, in a final of 90 minutes. An error might prove dear against an in-form Chennaiyin and even a string of saves may not vindicate him after such a blunder.

Bhattacharya has had a fine season so far and with 48 saves he stands third in the list of maximum stops behind Subhasish Roy and Gurpreet Sandhu. Now he needs to finish on a high by guiding ATK to their third ISL title. Only a resolute will coupled with unfaltering concentration can make him unbeatable at the Fatorda on Saturday night.