Rahul KP shines as Kerala Blasters outclass NorthEast United 3-0
Despite making five changes, Ivan Vukomanovic managed a resounding victory
Kerala Blasters sucked NorthEast United into their own den and handed Marco Balbul’s side their fifth consecutive defeat in as many matches. The first half of the game was a dull affair, but the visitors came alive in the second half to outclass the Highlanders.
The first chance of the game fell to Romain Philippoteaux who crashed into the crossbar after a brilliant solo run, beating a couple of defenders along the way.
Rahul KP won his team a free-kick in the 16th minute after good work down the left flank, but the Blasters couldn’t make it count. After a corner, Ivan Vukomanovic risked being caught on the counterattack, but despite Jithin Madathil Subran’s lung-busting runs from one end of the pitch to the other, he was unlucky to concede a goal kick to the opposition. A few half-chances and a hard fight from both sides for the ball was the story of the first half hour.
Both sides were guilty of making sloppy passes and giving possession away, thus making for an even first half. Dimitrios Diamantakos was on the receiving end of a good through ball, but unfortunately the striker had drifted wide and the shot with the cross resulted in no significant result.
It must be said that coach Balbul had worked on the team’s defensive shape, they defended very well, and after losing four games so far. It was a tough first half with neither side willing to give away an inch. The visitors began the second half on a positive note, Saurav Mandal hacked down in a dangerous position, but they failed to test Mirshad Michu from the resulting free-kick.
Emil Benny then tried to test Gill but in the end his effort went narrowly wide to show some positive intent from NorthEast as well. Ten minutes after the restart, the Tuskers’ persistence paid off, as they had the ball in the back of the net.
Rahul proved to be the difference as he fed Saurav who drilled in a cross and Diamantakos was there to finish with confidence. It was the first ever goal in the ISL from the Blasters forward and derailed the ongoing campaign.
The Highlanders made two changes as Jithin and Romain made way for Aaron Evans and Imran Khan. Vukomanovic also made two changes as Dimitrios was replaced by Apostolos Giannou. Sahal Samad also replaced Saurav.
The Highlanders had a great chance to equalize in the 71st minute when Aaron’s cross almost crept into the goal only for Gill to trot back and push it over the bar for a corner.
The hosts had two more golden opportunities close to the 80th minute. It was a great ball from the right wing from Joe, but Imran couldn’t make proper contact. A minute later, Derbyshire fed Emil with an inch-perfect ball, but the latter rounded the keeper only to be pushed away from goal, unable to make the chance count.
They would be punished for the poor finish in the 85th minute. Rahul, once again the danger man, was dropped down the right flank by Giannou and the former played a great cross to Sahal, who buried the chance to mark his record 77th appearance in the famous yellow shirt with a goal.
Balbul’s side came into the match with a defensive first approach, but after conceding the goal, they found it difficult to get on the front foot.
Six minutes were added by the referee, although the home side were on the back foot for most of the added time. Puitea was introduced into the game by the visiting team and he created an almost immediate impact, but his shot is just inches off target!
Rahul himself could have got his name on the scoresheet when he was on target deep into stoppage time, but his first-time effort sailed over the bar with the onrushing keeper.
The Blasters weren’t done yet, however, and they would add to the home side’s misery when they added another goal in the final minute of play. Sahal completed the brace as he finished from six yards after some more good team play down the right wing.
NorthEast United could only muster a single shot on target, leaving them still without a point after five matches.