Belfort’s solitary goal gives Kerala first-leg advantage over Delhi
Kerala Blasters FC beat Delhi Dynamos FC 1-0 in the first leg of the second semi-final of Hero Indian Super League 2016 in front of almost 50,000 fans at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Kochi on Sunday. Kervens Belfort scored the only goal of the game in the 65th minute to give the Blasters a goal advantage heading into second leg in New Delhi on Wednesday.
The game got off to an electric start with both sides having chances of taking the lead inside the opening two minutes. Kean Lewis had the first shot of the game in the first minute when he took control of a loose ball near Kerala’s penalty area before forcing Sandip Nandy into conceding a corner. The hosts hit Delhi on the counter from the subsequent corner as Belfort set up CK Vineeth to finish beyond Antonio Doblas in goal. Vineeth’s shot, however, was off target and went into the side-netting.
Both sides settled down soon after the initial flurry, keeping their defensive shape and making it difficult for the opposition to find an opening. Delhi were looking more threatening in attack, especially on Kerala’s left hand side with Marcelinho giving the Blasters’ Josu Currais all sorts of problems on the wing.
The Brazilian’s trickery even forced Kerala head coach Steve Coppell into an early change as he opted to bring on Didier Boris Kadio for Josu in the 31st minute after the Spaniard had already picked up a yellow card and looked to be a tackle away from being sent off.
The substitution didn’t prevent Marcelinho from continuing to wreak havoc on Kerala’s defence though with the Brazilian calling Nandy into action after gliding past Kerala’s backline in nonchalant fashion in the 35th minute. Kerala had the last few opportunities of the half just before the break as Belfort cut the ball back from the left for Duckens Nazon, whose finish was blocked and went behind for a corner.
Nazon headed wide off the target from the resulting corner, while Belfort managed to put the ball into the back of the net shortly after. However, the assistant referee had his flag up for handball as the sides went into the break goalless.
Nazon was at it again in the second half and nearly broke the deadlock in the 64th minute. The Haitian cut in from the right side and tried to finish from an acute angle but couldn’t get the breakthrough for the men in yellow.
They took the lead a minute later though, through Belfort, who went past Ruben Rocha effortlessly coming in from the left before seeing his shot deflect off Delhi centre-back Anas Edathodika and go beyond Doblas in goal to make it 1-0 for the hosts.
Florent Malouda registered Delhi’s first shot on target in the second half three minutes later with an attempt from range that Nandy saved comfortably. The Lions came close to a leveller again in the 75th minute courtesy of a Marcelinho header that had beaten Nandy but was cleared off the goal-line by Cedric Hengbart.
Vineeth tried to extend Kerala’s lead six minutes from full-time with a stinging shot from the right that Doblas got down low to save. Substitute Kim Kima came closest to finding an equaliser for Delhi in stoppage-time but his ambitious volley from distance went wide of the target as Kerala kept their lead intact going into the second leg in the capital city on Wednesday.
Club award: Kerala Blasters FC
Amul Fittest Player of the Match: Aaron Hughes
DHL Winning Pass of the Match: Cedric Hengbart
Maruti Suzuki Swift Moment of the Match: Kervens Belfort
ISL Emerging Player of the Match: Souvik Chakraborty
Hero of the Match: Cedric Hengbart