Kerala Blasters FC ensured that they will enter the Indian Super League (ISL) 2023-24 playoffs with a win at their back after defeating Hyderabad FC by 3-1 at the Gachibowli Stadium tonight. Mohammed Aimen scored and assisted once each as Daisuke Sakai and Nihal Sudeesh netted too to help the Yellow Army cap off a clinical outing against the Thangboi Singto-coached team. A late consolation goal by Joao Victor was insufficient to salvage Hyderabad FC any tangible outcome out of this game as they rounded off this campaign with a solitary win to their name in 22 matches.

Kerala Blasters FC had not tasted a win in any of their five matches before this game. They had in fact drawn once and lost four matches, as a host of injury issues came together to derail the solid campaign that they endured in the first half of the season.

That strong head-start, however, ensured that the Ivan Vukomanovic-coached team became the fifth team to qualify for the ISL playoffs, but their recent run of form had raised concerns over their possible performances in the coming stage of the competition.

Hormipan Ruivah and Saurav Mandal had injected immense excitement in the Kerala Blasters FC ranks with their interlinking on the right flank. On one such occasion, the duo engaged in a quick exchange of passes before Mandal lobbed the ball in for Aimen in the far post, who headed the ball into the back of the net, demonstrating tremendous aerial prowess in the 34th minute.

Mandal is perhaps providing Vukomanovic answers to his goal-scoring questions ahead of the playoffs. Six minutes into the second half, Mandal stormed into the box from the right, catching the Hyderabad FC defence off-guard. He launched in a low cross for Daisuke Sakai, who tapped the ball in to double the lead for the visitors.

The goal-scoring frenzy continued in the final 10-odd minutes of the match also. Aimen turned the provider again in the 81st minute, laying up a fairly straightforward delivery for Nihal on the right side of the box, who slotted the ball right into the centre of the net, in what was a showcase of the domestic talent and promise brimming through the Kerala Blasters FC ranks. Victor’s strike in the 88th minute was a result of some timely ingenuity by Alex Saji, who laid the ball in the path of the former through his head to pull back a goal, which was too little, too late for the team.  

Key Performer of the Match

Saurav Mandal (Kerala Blasters FC)

Mandal completed 15 out of his 20 passes, tackling once, intercepting twice, creating two goal-scoring chances, in addition to bagging two assists in this match.

What’s next for both teams?

Kerala Blasters FC will now feature in the ISL 2023-24 playoffs, whereas Hyderabad FC’s season comes to an end with this match.

Brief Scores

Hyderabad FC 1 (Joao Victor 88’) - 3 Kerala Blasters FC (Mohammed Aimen 34’, Daisuke Sakai 51’, Nihal Sudheesh 81’)

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