Kerala blast away to a 3-1 win over NorthEast United FC
Three goals in the second half saw a convincing Kerala Blasters FC come out as worthy winners in their opening game of Hero Indian Super League 2015 in front of 60,017 spectators at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Kochi on Tuesday.
A brilliant volley from Josu Currias broke the deadlock four minutes into the second half. Goals from Mohammed Rafi and impact substitute Sanchez Watt soon after put the game beyond reach for NorthEast United FC, who got a consolation goal late on through a stunning Nicolas Velez strike.
Kerala Blasters FC were on the front foot from the outset. The home side took the first shot of the match with a long-range effort from midfielder Peter Carvalho around the three-minute mark.
The Blasters continued to build pressure on the NorthEast United FC goal. Rafi shot over the bar after a clash between goalkeeper TP Rehenesh and Kerala striker Chris Dagnall offered him an empty goal to shoot into. The former Indian frontman failed to keep the ball on target.
Rahul Bheke, who was drafted in at the last minute by the Blasters, could have also put the home team ahead in the 13th minute. His guided shot though was directed straight at the keeper.
NorthEast’s first chance came a few seconds later when Velez almost netted for the visitors before being closed down by Kerala’s experienced keeper Stephen Bywater who was off his line in the blink of an eye to smother the attack.
Kerala should have taken the lead in the 18th minute. It was right back Rahul Bheke once again who failed to convert a cross with his header. Dagnall just shot over the bar from the rebound after Rehenesh had failed to hold onto Bheke’s header.
The chances kept on coming for the home side. CK Vineeth was next in line to fire in a powerful drive at goal. Rehenesh though was once again placed perfectly to collect the effort.
NorthEast United FC’s defence was not helped by an injury to caption Miguel Garica who had to be replaced in the 27th minute. The veteran centre back was replaced by Sanju Pradhan causing a defensive re-shuffle for the visitors.
The last chance of the half fell Kerala’s way in keeping with the rest of the half. However, they would go in scoreless at the break having dominated the first half.
Kerala head coach Peter Taylor choose to freshen things up at half-time bringing on Watt to replace Dagnall. The goal would come soon after when Currias smashed in a powerful left-footed volley from outside the box to send the home crowd into a frenzy and put Kerala up 1-0 in the 49th minute.
NorthEast United FC pushed on for the equalizer immediately. A Boithang Haokip free-kick almost drew the visitor’s level but Cedric Hengbart failed to get his head on the ball allowing keeper Bywater to punch clear effectively.
The home side put some daylight between themselves and NorthEast United FC in the 68th minute. A long throw from the right found its way to straight to Rafi. The 33-year-old headed the ball precisely into the top corner in the far post to put his team in charge of the game with a two goal margin.
Kerala would put the game to bed three minutes later. A long ball from the keeper was headed on by Rafi. Taylor’s half-time substitute, Watt was Johnny on the spot to collect the header and fire past a helpless Rehenesh, putting the yellow army in firm control of the game.
The Highlanders, to their credit, did not give up the ghost. They would finally get on the scoresheet when Velez did brilliantly to cut in from the left and finish spectacularly into the top corner at the far past.
Taylor responded instantly bringing on the more defensive minded Joao Coimbra for goal-scorer Josu to shut up shop. Coimbra added defensive security to the Kerala backline making it difficult for the Highlanders to put together another chance of any meaning.
Kerala kept their discipline in the dying moments and negotiated six minutes of added time with relative ease. The hosts kept their shape and ran out comfortable 3-1 winners in the end to get their campaign off to a winning start.