Kerala Blasters have recovered from their Mumbai nightmare and how. If it wasn’t for Bete’s reactions in the first half, they would have done to Pune what Mumbai did to them. They looked a much improved side in this match and look like contendors for the semi final spot.
FC Pune City never got into their game today and this defeat means that their chances of going to the play offs is now slender. Qualification is completely out of their hands now and they will have to wish for a few other results to go in their favour to get a semi final spot even of they win both their final matches.
Kerala Blasters coach Steve Coppell believes his team has a very good chance of qualification to semi-finals of Hero Indian Super League if they play to their potential against FC Pune City at Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, Kochi, on Friday.
Kerala Blasters are outside the top four for now with 15 points from 11 matches but a win against Pune, placed fourth with the same number of points but a better goal difference will push them to the second spot, behind league leaders Mumbai City FC.
Coppell knows the importance of pocketing victory with just three matches left to be played and will be encouraged with the team’s impressive performances at home. Kerala Blasters have conceded just three goals at home, the joint lowest along with Mumbai City, and they are the only team to have won three back-to-back matches at home. Since losing the opening game at home against Atletico de Kolkata, Kerala Blasters are on a four-match unbeaten streak at home.
“After 11 games, we are still in a position to qualify. If we play to our potential, then we have a very good chance to be in the play-offs. That was our target at the beginning of the season. After (the first) three games, people would have said we don’t have a good chance (with just one point). But then we fought back, worked hard and tried to be tight. When we lost, we didn’t overreact and when we won, similarly, we didn’t overreact. Teams will only be judged after 14 games,” said Coppell.
Kerala Blasters were hammered 0-5 by Mumbai City in the previous game but Coppell feels the result will not have any bearing in their next match.
“That’s finished now. We learnt what we can from that game. We respect Mumbai. They are a good team. They are proving to be possibly the form team but that’s finished. We are looking forward to the next one against Pune,” said Coppell.
Pune City are facing a must-win situation with 15 points from 12 matches. They are placed fourth for now but failure to win maximum points in their next two matches could result in elimination.
“It’s important (to win) because there are six, seven teams who want to be in the play-offs. Also Goa, if they win against Atletico de Kolkata, they have a chance. For us, after the defeat in Guwahati, it’s important to win,” said assistant coach David Moliner, who attended the pre-match media briefing because coach Antonio Habas was unwell with cough and fever.
A defeat for FC Pune City would mean they can accrue, at most, 18 points. No team has ever managed to get into the semi-finals with less than 19 points in the history of ISL, leaving the visitors with no choice but breach the Kerala fortress and stay on track for qualification.
3′ gone Kerala Blasters 0-0 FC Pune City
Early chance for Kerala with Belfort chasing the ball but the goalkeepers reaches to it just before he does.
Kerala playing from left to right in their home colours while Pune are in their away colours. CK Vineeth, unusually playing down the right flank. If ifnore the 5-0 defeat to Mumbai City, however difficult that may be, Kerala have been in great form. They look for their fourth straight home win.
4′ gone, Kerala Blasters had another chance when Vineet threaded the ball to Gouramangi who in turn tried to find Befort who was just onside. But Pune defenders remain alert and clear the threat
GOAL!! Kerala Blasters 1-0 FC Pune City (Nazon 7′)
Duckens Nazon had Belfort in the middle but he continued to run down the right, took one touch to get into space calmly and slotted it into the goal. A calm head from the Haitian, Kerala have shown their class early on
15′ gone, Sissoko fouls Belfort as the Kerala man tried to find a way through the fix he found himself in the midfield area. The free kick was taken along the ground to Jhingan on the right. Jhinghan tried a cross but it ended up going into the crowd without even crossing over.
17′ gone Jonathan Luca takes a shot from far outside the box and the ball soars above goal, thus wasting an opportunity for FC Pune City to keep the pressure on Mumbai City FC.
20′ gone, Kerala Blasters 1-0 FC Pune City
Pune are not able to keep it together in the final third. Jonathan Luca tried to make a cross and that went outside goal instead of inside the box. Pune have had chances to put pressure on Kerala but have squandered it with misplaced passes and shots.
24′ gone, Pune are having more possession but it isn’t meaningful possession. They are unable to sustain any pressure on Kerala. Sissoko won the ball back for Pune and passed it to Anibal. They were still in midfield and other Pune players were advancing to assist them but Anibal went for the shot from distance and it is not even close to goal.
30′ gone, Kerala Blasters seem to be most dangerous through the wide areas with Vineeth and Rafi’s pace. They also seem to know the importance of not letting FC Pune City have too much possession and concede a goal in the process. They are counter attacking whenever they get the chance.
36′ gone, FC Pune City’s best chance so far in the match as Anibal made the cross but the header goes wide. Kerala countered and almost scored when Rafi cut in from the right and tried to put it through the goalkeeper’s legs. Bete managed to deflect the ball away for a corner.
40′ gone Kerala Blasters 1-0 FC Pune City
Pune came agonisingly close to the equaliser. It was a corner for Pune, Kerala keeper Nandi came out and tried to punch it out but ended up just putting the ball further back near goal. The ball bounced after hitting a Pune attackers leg and millimetres away from the goal line and rolled outside. Pune players were appealing for goal but it’s a heart breaking goal kick that they concede instead.
HALF TIME!! Kerala Blasters 1-0 FC Pune City
Antonio Habas has been shaking his head a lot in the first half and the reason seems to be his players’ inability to keep a calm head whenever they get to the opposition half and especially when they get near the box they are attacking. That is where Kerala have been better than Pune and it is only because of Pune goalkeeper Bete’s reactions that Vineeth and Rafi have not got onto the scoresheet. As it stands, FC Pune City are virtually out of the semi final race.
GOAL!! Kerala Blasters 2-0 FC Pune City (Aaron Hughes 57′)
It was a corner that was not cleared well by Pune and CK Vineeth not only managed to keep it in but put in a cross. It went over Bete’s head who was late to react to it and Aarron Hughes came in from behind to score.
Arata Izumi may have tried to take a shot, or provide a cross, only he knows as he swung his foot at the ball and missed it completely. The crowd loved that one and one embarrassing moment for the Indian. But it might just be a conclusion of how Pune City’s match has gone.
70′ gone, Kerala Blasters 2-0 FC Pune City
Kerala are now comfortably the better team. Pune have tried to provide hopeful long balls into the box every time they see an opening or take shots from improbable distances and angles. On the other hand, Kerala have isolated Pune defendors and have taken them apart with their pressing game. There seems to be no way back for the away side.
75′ gone Kerala Blasters 2-0 FC Pune City
Kerala broke on the attack once again and CK Vineeth took the shot that was just off target. Kerala’s superiority is on full display here.
80′ gone, Kerala Blasters 2-0 C Pune City
Kerala goalkeeper Nandi has been lucky tonight. It was a freekick that hit the wall but was put back into the box. Nandi came off his line to punch it off but Sissoko almost got their first. It finally did go off his head and safely out.
84′ gone, No sooner did I say it he makes a blinder of a save. The ball fell nicely for Pitu in the middle of the box and he took the shot which was saved almost from point blank range by Nandi with a fantastic dive to his right.
90′ gone, Mehtab Hussein has been yellow carded for a rather strong challenge and an even stronger retaliation when the referee ruled against him. A whopping six minutes have been added on.
GOAL!! Kerala Blasters 2-1 FC Pune City (Anibal 4′)
FULL TIME!! Kerala Blastes 2-1 FC Pune City
Anibal’s goal was a good one but it was too little too late. Aaron Hughes’ goal turned out to be the difference between the two sides on the scoreline but on the pitch, Kerala were better than Pune in every way.