Kerala Blasters end Mumbai City’s unbeaten start with 1-0 win
Kerala Blasters FC beat Mumbai City FC 1-0 for their first win of the 2016 Hero Indian Super League in front of more than 40,000 fans at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Kochi on Friday. Kerala dominated the match and got their goal in the 58th minute through Michael Chopra for Steve Coppell’s first three points as head coach of the Blasters.
Kerala made a lightning quick start from kick-off thanks to Mohammed Rafi, who headed a Kervens Belfort cross from the left on goal with just 20 seconds on the clock. Rafi got in behind Mumbai’s backline two minutes later again but scuffed his effort on goal wide this time.
The Blasters had another golden opportunity of taking the lead in the 17th minute after a Sandesh Jhingan cross from the right made its way to Belfort at the far post. The Haitian’s first-time volley on goal though was blocked off by Mumbai’s defence.
Chopra was the next Kerala Blasters player to have a crack at goal in the 35th minute as the hosts continued to dominate the opening half. The 32-year-old’s shot from the edge of the penalty area ricocheted off Mumbai’s defence and allowed the visitors to clear the danger.
The penultimate chance of the half also fell to Chopra courtesy of a stunning ball by Josu Currais from the left, which found the former Newcastle United striker with space on the right. His shot on goal forced Roberto Volpato into a low save to his right to keep it at 0-0.
Josu’s corner in the last minute of first-half stoppage time found Rafi unmarked in the penalty area. The veteran striker, however, failed to keep his header on goal as Kerala went in at the half-time interval with the score still at 0-0.
Kerala started the second half the way they ended the first. Their first shot on target in the second period came after a neat one-two between Chopra and Azrack Mahamat set up the latter for a shot on goal on the edge of Mumbai’s penalty box. The Chadian’s attempt on goal was well-struck but straight into Volpato’s arms in Mumbai’s goal.
The hosts finally took the lead in the 58th minute after Belfort’s attempt on goal found its way to Chopra on the edge of the six-yard box. This time Chopra made no mistake as he calmly slotted the ball past Volpato to score his first ever Hero ISL goal and Kerala’s first of the season.
Mumbai made a double substitution in the 65th minute as Alexandre Guimaraes brought on Sena Ralte and Sony Norde for Boithang Haokip and Lucian Goian in search of an equaliser. Norde made his presence felt four minutes later by dancing past Jhingan before beating Sandip Nandy in goal. Only a spectacular goal-line clearance by Kerala skipper Aaron Hughes kept his side’s one-goal lead intact.
The Blasters sat deep in the last 10 minutes of the game with Mumbai throwing everything forward in search of a late leveller. Some resolute defending by Kerala’s defence under the leadership and guidance of Hughes, however, saw the Blasters over the line for their first win of Hero ISL 2016.
Club award: Kerala Blasters FC
Amul Fittest Player of the Match: Josu Currais
DHL Winning Pass of the Match: Kervens Belfort
Maruti Suzuki Swift Moment of the Match: Aaron Hughes
ISL Emerging Player of the Match: Aiborlang Khongjee
Hero of the Match: Michael Chopra