A spirited display wasn't enough for Kerala Blasters to break their winless streak as Nelo Vingada started his tenure with a 1-1 draw against ATK on Friday at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Kochi.
Edu Garcia's free-kick effort gave ATK the lead in the 85th minute before Matej Poplatnik slammed home an equaliser three minutes later to share the spoils.
Both lineups had four changes from their last outing. New signings Pritam Kotal and Edu Garcia started for ATK. Kalu Uche and Pronay Halder also made their comeback into the ATK first-team.
Nikola Krcmarevic made his first appearance since going off injured in his team's 0-0 draw against Chennaiyin on November 29, 2018. Prasanth Karuthadathkuni, Cyril Kali and Matej Poplatnik also started the game.
The men in yellow were visibly keen to impress their new gaffer and started the game on the front foot. Prasanth Karuthadathkuni and Cyril Kali found joy on the right flank and the former threatened with a cross into the box in the third minute but Matej Poplatnik headed the ball wide.
Four minutes later, the right flank duo combined for a one-two only for Seiminlen Doungel to miss a close-range tap-in off Kali's drilled cross.
ATK failed to influence proceedings and create chances whereas Blasters, despite putting pressure on the visitor's backline, failed to score in the first half.
Prasanth was doing his bit to carve out an opening. A brilliant cross from the right after the half-hour mark found Sahal Samad inside the box but the young midfielder's poor touch allowed Johnson so clear the danger. ATK weren't posing any danger to Jhingan and co. from inside the box but an Edu Garcia curler just before the break forced a brilliant save off Dheeraj.
After a few tentative moves at both ends after the break, Slavia Stojanovic threw away a fantastic opportunity to take the lead at the hour-mark. Doungel's cross from the left was brought under control by the Serbian before blazing his shot over the bar.
Doungel crossed from the left again two minutes later and this time to Prasanth at the far post who put the ball on a plate for Poplatnik to shoot from inside the box. The Slovenian striker shot well but Arindam Bhattacharya pulled off a good save to his left.
Sahal's cross to the far post from the right flank in the 73rd minute found Lalruatthara unmarked but the full-back could only hit the side-netting, adding to the frustration of the home crowd.
ATK held their nerve and delivered the knock-out punch in the 85th minute. A reckless foul by Lalruatthara at the edge of the box on Edu Garcia gave the visitors a free-kick. The Spanish midfielder stepped up and used the gap below the defensive wall as they jumped at the whistle to score.
Kerala responded well and equalised within minutes. Cyril Kali found Matej Poplatnik at the far post with a floated cross from the right and the striker's header went in off Gerson Vieira's legs.