Familiarity breeds respect in the Atletico de Kolkata camp for rival goalkeeper Edel Bete. The burly Cameroon custodian was in the thick of things for the defending champion last season, astutely covering the angles and blocking shots with solid reflexes. Chennaiyin FC, playing the home semifinal in neutral territory at the Balewadi stadium, has a match-winner under the bar.
Bete switched teams without any dip in form, kept five clean sheets in 10 league games for Chennaiyin, saving two penalties and being a front-runner for the Golden Gloves list with 28 saves.
He looms larger during the penalty kicks, as witnessed during the semifinal against FC Goa last season. Another semifinal stretching into penalties could prod the Cameroonian into action again.
Iain Hume has a reputation for unlocking defences with daring runs into the goalmouth by intercepting passes or crosses. Like Bete, he has shifted base from Kerala Blasters to ATK, losing neither his sharpness around the goalmouth nor the fighting instincts to gain ball possession.
The Canadian is one of Habas’s prized assets as he has shown remarkable endurance while figuring in all 14 league games, a staggering 1251 minutes of playing time.
Materazzi can only hope his in-form goalkeeper Bete can play a part in neutralising the tireless Canadian.
Hume, who has committed 30 fouls and collected two yellow cards, has been fouled more times than any other striker. He has chipped in with 10 goals and 21 shots on target.
Bete versus Hume in the goalmouth, the goalkeeper trying to read the striker’s mind, may decide the first-leg semifinal in regulation time. Two other players — ATK goalkeeper Amrinder Singh and Chennaiyin FC forward Stiven Mendoza — have performed consistently in the competition. The Indian custodian has managed to carve out a place for himself in a set-up dominated by the Spaniards.
Colombian striker Mendoza, leading the Golden Boot race with 11 goals and two assists in 13 appearances, will test the ATK custodian. Chennaiyin’s strikeforce will be blunted by the absence of Elano Blumer, serving a one-match suspension (yellow card), and midfielder Raphael Augusto (injury).
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