Kerala Blasters FC played the penultimate match of the ISL season 2020-21 yesterday as they faced their southern rivals Chennayin FC at the GMC Stadium, Bambolim. In a hard-fought battle, the spoils were shared among the two teams as the match ended in a 1-1 scoreline.
Our Coach Ishfaq made four crucial changes in the starting line-up with Jessel, Jeakson, Lalruathara, and Rahul KP finding a place. Jessel, who is coming back after a short layoff was assigned as the captain for the night to lead our boys in the much-awaited southern derby. The Coach lined up the team in a similar 4-4-1-1 set up with Jeakson and Vicente occupying the midfield. The pacy wingers Prashant and Rahul in the wings with Murray and Hooper up front gave the perfect setting for an attacking game against our familiar foes. Anirudh Thapa captained Chennayin FC as they were playing their last game of the season.
The first half started with an early chance to the visitors, as Thapa’s goal-bound volley inside the box was dealt neatly by Albino. As expected, the game was too fast and chances were beckoning at both sides back to back. The constant pressure from the opposition team at last found fruition as Fathullo scored one past Albino giving the visitors an early lead. Trailing by a goal, the Men in Yellow were in no mood to sit back as we were coming in full force to get that equalizer at the earliest. The Boys were attacking the opposition goal in search of that much-needed goal and as a result of that, a penalty was awarded in favor of us in the 24th minute of the game as Deepak Tangiri was caught handling the ball inside the box. Gary Hooper stepped up to take the spot-kick as he was one goal away from making a milestone in his illustrious career. Hooper converted the spot-kick scoring the 200th league goal of his career.
The Second half was no less of action as both sides got plenty of chances to get the lead and take home all three points. Prashant in the wings was playing the game of his life and he was exploiting his speed to provide crosses back to back. Prasanth made a superb run on the counter, played a one-two with Hooper to get into the box but Thoi made a great block to deny us the lead. The boys were piling on the pressure inside the Chennaiyin half as rain pelting down at Bambolim. In the 80th minute of the game, Sipovic was given the marching orders as he fouled Prashant earning him his second yellow for the game.
After the game coach, Ishfaq Ahmed talked to the press and he stated that, “I think its all about our character. We need to show the character even if we take the lead, we need to hold on to the lead we got. In many times we lost the lead in the second half or if we are down we should show the character to come back. Our plan was to feed Jordan more balls as he is stronger and faster.” When asked about Gary Hooper’s 200th goal, the coach responded, “I think he is the best player in the league. You have seen him play in at number 10, number 9 and how he manages his game. His first touches are fabulous and he has contributed a lot to the club.“