Kerala enter the final after nerve-racking shootout against Delhi
Delhi Dynamos FC beat Kerala Blasters FC 2-1 in the second leg of the second semi-final of Hero Indian Super League 2016 at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in New Delhi on Wednesday but went out 3-0 nonetheless in penalty shootout after the tie ended 2-2 on aggregate following extra time. All three goals on the night came in the first half with Marcelinho scoring the opener for Delhi before Duckens Nazon equalised for Kerala. Milan Singh then received a direct red card shortly before the half hour mark but Ruben Rocha scored for the Lions at the end of the first period to take the game to extra time and beyond. Delhi missed all three of their penalties in the shootout, allowing Mohammed Rafique to hit the winning penalty to enter the final of Hero ISL 2016.
Delhi were on the front foot straight from the start as they looked to level things on aggregate, while Kerala looked threatening on the counter, breaking at pace and looking to catch out the Dynamos, who were over-committing in attack.
The game burst into life in the 21st minute when a half-clearance of a Marcos Tebar ball by Didier Boris Kadio fell to Marcelinho. Delhi’s Brazilian talisman made no mistake as he composed himself before placing the ball past Sandip Nandy in goal to make it 1-0 for the Lions and 1-1 on aggregate.
Kerala responded immediately courtesy of some individual brilliance by Nazon three minutes later. The Haitian forward ran at Delhi’s defence, cut in from the left and belted a thunderous effort beyond a helpless Antonio Doblas in goal, making it 1-1 on the night and 2-1 on aggregate in favour of the Blasters.
The match took another turn in favour of the visitors in the 28th minute when the referee produced a direct red for Milan Singh after a foul on Mehtab Hossain. However, Delhi didn’t let the sending-off affect them too much as they continued to press forward and nearly retook the lead four minutes from half-time when Richard Gadze tried his luck from range. Nandy though was well positioned in goal to make a comfortable save.
The Lions weren’t done yet, however, and got their equaliser on the stroke of half-time when Tebar floated in a free-kick into the box. Rocha rose the highest and directed his header into the back of the net to make it 2-1 to Delhi on the night and 2-2 on aggregate.
The first opportunity of the second period went the Dynamos’ way when Florent Malouda danced past Kerala’s defence before shooting over the crossbar in the 53rd minute. Rocha attempted another header on goal from a Tebar free-kick six minutes later but this time Nandy made the save.
Nazon nearly got his second of the night shortly after the hour mark but the Haitian’s shot this time around was well blocked by Delhi’s defence. Marcelinho then tried to extend the lead for the Dynamos in the 68th minute with a powerful shot from distance that was fractions over the crossbar.
Substitute Antonio German came on to have an immediate impact on the game in the 72nd minute after running at Delhi’s defence and sending a fizzing effort inches above goal. Up the other end only a goal-line clearance kept the men in yellow in the game after Tebar’s free-kick in the 78th minute was headed on by Malouda and was goal-bound, requiring Sandesh Jhingan to make a spectacular clearance off the line.
Brilliant link-up play between Malouda and Marcelinho led to another opening for Delhi five minutes from full-time only for the Brazilian to place his effort wide of the target. German had Kerala’s last shot on goal in stoppage-time at the end of the second half, which went wide of the target as it ended 2-1 to Delhi in normal time and 2-2 on aggregate, meaning extra-time was required to separate the two sides.
Delhi had a massive chance of taking the lead on aggregate three minutes into extra time after Marcelinho followed up on a save by Nandy from a Malouda shot only for the Brazilian to blaze over the crossbar. Malouda then forced Nandy into conceding a corner with a stinging shot from just outside the box in the 100th minute. Neither side managed to create any clear-cut chances in the second half of extra-time as the match headed to penalties.
Josu Currais scored the first penalty for Kerala, while Malouda missed Delhi’s first of the night. German then missed Kerala’s second spot-kick but so did the Dynamos’ Bruno Pelissari as the Blasters maintained their 1-0 advantage in the shootout. Belfort then made it 2-0 in the shootout for Kerala and Nandy saved Memo’s shot to make it 2-0 after three penalties each. Rafique then stepped up to convert his spot-kick as Kerala set up a final date with Atlético de Kolkata on Sunday.
Club award: Delhi Dynamos FC
Amul Fittest Player of the Match: Cedric Hengbart
DHL Winning Pass of the Match: Marcos Tebar
Maruti Suzuki Swift Moment of the Match: Sandip Nandy
ISL Emerging Player of the Match: Kim Kima
Hero of the Match: Ruben Rocha