The opening match of the Hero Indian Super League ended in the Indira Gandhi Athletic stadium in Guwahati and it is the home side, North East United that have claimed victory over Kerala Blasters. Both sides looked evenly matched at half-time and the second half started with both goalkeepers being equally busy. Finally it was in the 55th minute that NorthEast United was able to penetrate Kerala’s defence with Japanese forward Katsumi Yusa getting on the end of a vicious ball into the box made by Argentine winger Nicolás Vélez.
The match was preceded by the opening ceremony. The celebrations were highlighted by the Bollywood celebrities who were joined by MS Dhoni and Sachin Tendulkar representing their respective teams. Also present on the occassion was Olympic Silver medallist PV Sindhu.
FULL TIME and its ended NEUFC 1-0 Kerala Blasters at the Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium in Guwahati. The home fans will go home happy with the result. Although they did look threatening in bits and pieces, Kerala Blasters never looked like they could equal or overturn the one goal deficit.
85 minutes gone. NEUFC 1-0 Kerala Blasters. Kerala looking tired on the pitch now. They may have shown fight but have looked tired ever since they conceded the goal. They may have hoped to improve on what they did last season but so far, the visitors have not shown if they are capable of doing so.
Didier Zokora comes on for North East United in the 76th minute. He replaces Romario who has been threatening the Kerala defence all throughout the match.
70 mins gone and the score remains 1-0 in favour of NEUFC. The home -side clearly looking the stronger of the two now as every attempt at putting an attack together by Kerala Blasters is dismantled by Aaron Hughes and co. or the linesman’s offside flag
Kerala Blaster make a change in the 65th minute. Michael Chopra on for the visitors. Chopra returns to the ISL wearing the yellow of Kerala.
Substitution in the 62nd minute for NEUFC. Assist provider Velez is out for Wellington.
GOAL!! NorthEast United take the lead in the 55th minute and the stadium explodes. Velez who has been a livewire at the right hand flank got a ball into the box and Katsumi Yusa obliged. NEUFC 1-0 Kerala Blasters
50 mins gone and score remains 0-0. The two teams have started the second half on a positive note and are playing end-to-end. Both goalkeepers have been called into action at numerous points.
Kerala Blasters had a disastrous season last year and finished bottom of the table. They had only one away victory and that came right here at Guwahati against North East United.
Kerala Blasters start the second half. Both managers have had the chance to chat with their players. No changes made at half-time to the squads
HALF TIME and the scores remain 0-0. Kerala Blasters seem to be happy to defend and counter and don’t seem to mind giving the bulk of possession to NEUFC. An interesting incident in the 44th minute when a second ball bobbled onto the pitch. The referee didn’t make much of it and let the game go on into two minutes injury time.
A deep cross comes in from the left flank by Kerala’s Kervens Belfort and Rafi gets on the end of it. He manages to make contact but fails to keep the header on target. Kerala Blaster’s best chance of the match so far in the 32nd minute.
30 mins are gone and the score remains 0-0. NorthEast are stepping up the attack and Kerala defenders seem to be buckling under the pressure. Two very poorly timed tackles led to the home side getting free-kicks from promising positions. They couldn’t convert them but Steve Coppell will be hoping his side manages to keep their cool.
20 minutes into the game, score remains 0-0. Kerala Blasters finally made a foray into the NEUFC defense but the home side were able to see it off. NEUFC have been the dominant side though as a better part of the match is being played in the visitor’s half.
The game seems to have swung a bit towards NEUFC. The home side are testing Kerala repeatedly through the right flank. So far, it hasn’t produced any credible threat to the visitors defence as we go past the 15 minute mark.
10 mins have passed. NorthEast United did seem to threaten but there weren’t any heads to meet a cross that came from the right wing. The two teams pretty much have an equal share of possession. Score remains 0-0
Six minutes into the match and it certainly seems an even contest. Both teams haven’t made any major threats so far. Quite a few tackles flying about and the referee has already called a few fouls.
It has kicked off. NorthEast United take us away.
The two teams line up on the pitch. Chief Minister of Assam Sarbananda Sonowal walks out with Neeta Ambani. The National Anthem now being played in the stadium.
And with that, the opening ceremony comes to an end. Despite the Bollywood presence, the focus remained on football and the tournament itself, the ISL.
Varun Dhawan now welcomes Olympic medallist PV Sindhu onstage to bring in the ceremonial ball to start the ISL.
Neeta Ambani talks about the ISL’s grassroots programme.Mumbai City FC, that has been leading the initiative. Owner Ranbir Kapoor, is called on stage and felicitated by Mrs. Ambani.
Neeta Ambani now interacting with the crowd. She thanks the love that Guwahati has always shown for football and sports and mentions Mary Kom and Deepa Karmakar
Varun Dhawan, Ali Bhatt and Jacqueline Fernandez now onstage. Varun welcomes Neeta Ambani onstage alongwith the team owners.
Kerala Blasters XI: Graham Stack (GK), Aaron Hughes, Sandesh Jhingan, Cedric Hengbart, Didier Boris Kadio, Mohammed Rafi, Vinit Rai, Mehtab Hossain, Ishfaq Ahmed, Antonio German, Kervens Belfort
Mumbai City FC owner Ranbir Kapoor sitting alongside Sachin Tendulkar here as Varun Dhawan follows up Alia Bhatt’s act. The Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium in Guwahati is absolutely dazzling right now.
The owners exit the stage and make way for the evening’s celebrations to start. Alia Bhatt is the next one to take the stage. The much talked about glitz and glamour of the ISL in full display here.
Sachin Tendulkar joining the party. His team Kerala Blasters and North East United go head to head today
ISL 2016 franchises go shopping: Better imports and new coaches
The third season of the Indian Super League (ISL) kicks off today with North East United taking on Kerala Blasters. In all probability, this will be the final version of the tournament in its current avatar, considering that it might become the premier Indian league spanning across 8 months next year onwards. A few key points from this season
Players from 4 continents
79 players, 24 countries. The eight franchises have used their agent networks to proper use, attracting players (except marquees) from every continent except Oceana. Brazil (21) has highest representation, just like the previous season, owing to a tie-up with their first-division side Atletico Paranaense. Seven of them have been signed by Goa, which isn’t a surprise as Zico has chosen to sign players he knows with the help of Beto, former Brazilian player who played in the I-League and is now an agent himself. Spain (14) has the second-most players while 11 players are from Africa, which has been India’s hunting ground for players for I-League.
Musical chairs for coaches
Out of the eight teams, six will have new coaches. Only Chennaiyin FC (Marco Materazzi) and FC Goa (Zico) have retained their coaches while the rest chose to replace their managers during the off season. Pune City managed a coup of sorts by luring the highly-animated, and successful, Antonio Habas from Atletico Kolkata, who hired another Spaniard and former Villarreal manager Jose Francisco Molina. Delhi replaced one high-profile manager, Roberto Carlos, with another, Gianluca Zambrotta while Kerala Blasters have got former Reading manager and Portsmouth’s director of football Steve Coppell.
Jet-setting the world
Unlike the past, where hurriedly-assembled and undercooked teams were fielded by many, all teams go into this season fully preapared with at least a month-long pre-season under their belts. All teams jet-setted to various corners of the world to prepare for the ISL. Delhi Dynamos became the first Indian club to play a friendly against an English Premier League side when they faced West Brom Albion last month. Zico used his reputation in Brazil to get his side decent exposure with a camp in Rio while Pune trained in Madrid. Mumbai City warmed up against some of the top clubs from the Gulf along with North East United.
Toss-up between Chennai, Goa
Last year’s finalists Chennaiyin and Goa will once again be the top contenders, mainly because of the continuity factor. Materazzi and Zico have been at the ISL since the beginning and understand the nature of tournament. Both teams have retained their core group while making crucial additions. Going by the pre-seasons, Delhi and Mumbai too look stable units, but Mumbai will be without some of their key players, including Sunil Chhetri, for the first 20 days of the league.
MS Dhoni joins the two onstage wearing the Chennaiyin FC jersey. The stadium explodes as Captain Cool joins in.
NorthEast United FC XI: Subrata Pal, Robin Gurung, Mailson Alves, Gustavo Lazzaretti (c), Reagan Singh, Romaric, Rowllin Borges, Kali Charan Narzary, Katsumi Yusa, Nicolas Velez, Emiliano Alfaro
John Abraham and Abhishek Bachchan onstage. The two team owners arguing for their own respective teams North East Untied and Chennaiyin FC
The Hero ISL opening ceremony has kicked off at Guwahati with a performance from Bollywood actress Jacqueline Fernandez