ISL Analysis | Wasteful Kerala Blasters draw against Mumbai City FC

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ISL Media

ISL Analysis | Wasteful Kerala Blasters draw against Mumbai City FC

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Subhayan Dutta


Kerala finally managed to get a name on the scoresheet when surprise starter Mark Sifneos converted a Rino Anto cross in the first-half at the Kaloor Stadium. However, Mumbai’s persistence saw them equalize through Balwant Singh late in the game after Kerala missed numerous to seal the game.

Rene Meulensteen finally gets his tactics right

Kerala Blasters came into the huge game with a reputation of a thin attack that had failed to score a single goal in over 180 minutes of action, which was a bleak stat considering the likes of Iain Hume and Dimitar Berbatov in the side. However, they now came up against a side that had conceded five goals from a staggering 47 shots so far, a clear indication of a poor defence if there ever was one.

Hence, the home side knew that a bit more coherence and patience up top could actually get them something out of the game. And as it turned out, Kerala didn’t need an industrious Hume today but a clever Mark Sifneos, who wouldn’t get down with the dirty work but would rather be more judicious on the counters.

Berbatov’s positioning was crucial too. Unlike the previous game, where he was left alone frequently to win the ball at the back and then create chance up front, Meulensteen’s wide 4-2-3-1 setup meant that Arata Izumi and Courage Pekuson would provide the Bulgarian with time and space to work his magic. The duo had a passing accuracy of 75%, who fed Berbatov the ball time and again, and it was a matter of time before the master plan came together.

A host of missed chances comes back to haunt Kerala

Kerala’s defensive juggernaut, that hadn’t let in a single goal so far, was finally broken by Mumbai which resulted in the hosts missing out on their maiden win of the season. But it wasn’t the defenders that let the Men in Yellow down today - it was their offensive line. After taking the lead as early as the 16th minute, the hosts missed numerous chances by either shooting the ball high into the stands or directly at the keeper.

Be the 27th minute chance that CK Vineeth squandered, from a Jackichand Singh cross that was straight at Amrinder Singh, or the 42nd minute attempt when Jackichand beat the goalie but couldn’t hit the target, Kerala were missing chances right left and center. The 56th minute chance when Vineeth, from a close range, had the entire goal to aim for was just the icing on the cake for a misfiring Blasters’ attack. Kerala, who have made a name for themselves as a defensively stable team, could have thought that their backline was good enough to contain a one-goal lead.

One cannot blame their defence too as the defensive duo of Sandesh Jhingan and Nemanja Lakic-Pesic doing brilliantly against a physically supreme opponent, with 6 clearances and 3 interceptions and innumerable aerial duel wins. They still, arguably, have the best defence in the league but they need to get their offence going if they want to make it into the knockout rounds.

The Showstopper

Kerala are finally reaping the fruits of the weeks of patience that they have shown in their marquee player. Dimitar Berbatov, who was played as a lone striker up front, has been decent in his playmaking role in the second and third game and after flashes of brilliance in the last stalemate against Jamshedpur FC, did get things right on Sunday.

The wide setup surely suits him as it allows him more time and space in the centre of the park. He can easily find wingers Vineeth and Jackichand at every instance which helps the two timerunner ups use every blade of grass on the field. With a 74% passing accuracy, Berbatov created two chances apart from him setting up Rino Anto to cross in the ball for the first goal. He could even had scored one himself but his header from a corner was straight at Amrinder Singh.

His composure with the ball at his feet and affinity to run into spaces, could work hugely for Kerala only if they start taking their chances. With another draw in the bag, the last year’s finalists must already have started having apprehensions of a poor campaign.

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