Kerala Blasters FC failed to finish the league phase with the best home record after losing 1-0 to Hyderabad FC at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium on Sunday in the last Hero Indian Super League (ISL) game before the playoffs. Borja Herrera scored the only goal of the match in the 29th minute as the defending champions handed the Blasters their third consecutive loss.

In the opening ten minutes of the game, Marko Leskovic was quick to block Javier Siverio’s goal-bound shot from close range. However, the rebound fell to Joel Chianese who took an extra touch before volleying it onto the crossbar.

Three minutes later, the hosts came close to drawing first blood when Adrian Luna spotted Vibin Mohanan lurking near the edge of the box. The Uruguayan squared it from the left flank straight into his path, and he tried to curl it into the top right corner but saw his effort fly wide.

In the 29th minute, Borja Herrera put the visitors in front. The move started with Sahil Tavora’s excellent run in the middle third, where he cut into the midfield from the right before finding Halicharan Narzary on the left. The winger pulled it back into the box where Herrera managed to nestle the ball into the far post with a first-time shot.

In the opening ten minutes of the second half, Kerala Blasters FC tried to string a few passes together and cause problems for the Hyderabad FC defence. However, the attackers fluffed their lines in the final third as a few chances went missing and others were dealt with by the visitors’ defence.

A promising opportunity presented itself to the Blasters when substitute Joao Victor brought Luna down near the edge of the box four minutes past the hour-mark. The Uruguayan took it himself and launched it over the bar as Victor and his teammates heaved a huge sigh of relief.

Four minutes from time two Hyderabad FC substitutes combined well but could not put the game to bed. Abdul Anjukandan whipped a good-looking ball into the box and found an unmarked Aaren D'Silva right in front of goal. The attacker failed to keep his header on target but Hyderabad FC held on to clinch all three points and finished their league season with a tenth clean sheet.

The 2022-23 Hero ISL league stage is now over and the focus shifts to the playoffs where both these teams will be in action again. After finishing in second place, Hyderabad FC will directly feature in the two-legged semi-final on March 9 and 13 against either ATK Mohun Bagan or Odisha FC. Meanwhile, Kerala Blasters FC will be in action against arch-rivals Bengaluru FC in the first playoff game on March 3.

Key Stats:
- Odei Onaindia made 10 clearances and 2 interceptions
- Jessel Carneiro attempted 5 tackles, made 2 clearances and 2 interceptions
- Herrera created the most chances (3) in the match