After a barren and often listless first half in Kolkata on Saturday night, it seemed ATK would find it hard to find a break through against Odisha FC. The first half was well contested by two teams desperate for a win for different reasons.
Though ATK shaded the exchanges, no chance of note was created in the final third at either end.
After managing to largely negate ATK's threat, Odisha would've fancied their chances of nicking the game against an ATK defence which looked a bit unsettled in the absence of Agus Garcia who had flown back to Spain for personal reasons.
However they failed to take into account Roy Krishna's pace and persistence. If it was the latter quality that helped him fire ATK into the lead, it was the former that saw the lead doubled, all but killing off Odisha's chances of making it into the play-offs, with the match eventually finishing 3-1 in the home side's favour.
The Fijian is an instinctive striker and when combined with his intent, ATK have firepower in their arsenal that can hurt any side. Of course, the presence of intelligent creators like Edu Garcia, David Williams and Javier Hernandez helps.
Hernandez has a mean delivery on him and his set-pieces asked questions of the Odisha defence throughout the game. It was from his corner that Krishna scored the first goal, peeling off Narayan Das quite easily and volleying a first time shot home.
His electric pace helped him chase down a long ball from Mandi Sosa and pull off an instinctive dink over Francisco Dorronsoro in Odisha goal a few minutes later. That has been the case with Krishna. When he scores, he scores in clumps and it was no surprise that he moved to the top of the goalscoring charts with the 13th of the season three minutes later.
This time, he showed anticipation, control and instinct to trap a cross from Jayesh Rane and fire it in on the swivel past Dorronsoro. What his exploits did was to relegate Manuel Onwu's strike to just a consolation.
Though Krishna had gone the entire month of January without scoring, he was heavily involved in ATK's victories. He continues to trouble defenders even in games he does not score and creates goals and opportunities for his teammates. His tally of five assists are a testament to that!
However, there were areas of concerns for Antonio Habas despite the fact that his team managed to eke out another win and grab pole position in the race for the top spot. ATK might be five points clear of third-placed Bengaluru FC and have a better head-to-head record over FC Goa, with whom they are level on points, but the defending on numerous occasions would have caused alarm bells to go off in Habas' head.
The absence of Agus Garcia was sorely felt, with Victor Mongil and Pritam Kotal looking unsure at the heart of that three-man defence. The ease with which Manuel Onwu managed to get in between Mongil and Kotal throughout the game should concern Habas.
For Odisha, a run of three back-to-back defeats has all but deflated their bid for a play-off spot. It is no wonder that it has coincided with the injury to Aridane Santana. Though Onwu has been scoring goals, the burly striker was key to Odisha's build-up play. He linked well with Odisha's creative hub - Xisco Hernandez. Onwu, on the other hand, relies on the service provided to him inside the box.
While it has brought their threat factor down, the real issue has been at the back. Gaurav Bora has had a dreadful few matches and even the usually reliable Marcos Tebar was poor on Saturday.
Unless a host of results go in their favour, Odisha look to have blown their chances of getting that fourth spot.