ISL Analysis | Kerala emerge victorious in a game of missed chances

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ISL Analysis | Kerala emerge victorious in a game of missed chances

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Subhayan Dutta


A rejuvenated Kerala side dominated NorthEast throughout the 90 minutes in Kochi as they managed to win 1-0, courtesy to the first-half goal by Vineeth. NorthEast got numerous chances to equalize after getting reduced to 10-men in first-half, but couldn’t make a single one of them count whatsoever.

No Berbatov No problem

With their marquee Bulgarian playmaker absent and the squad having no actual replacement for his talent, Rene Meulensteen decided to fill up the void by attempting to outnumber his opponents in the attacking third. NorthEast’s affinity to attack in numbers with a high backline was quite evident from their past games, and his plan to catch them off-guard worked brilliantly with the 4-1-4-1 setup.

Introducing Wes Brown in the central midfield was his biggest gamble as the former Manchester United man was primarily given the job to sit deep and defend alongside Sandesh Jhingan and Nemanja Lakic-Pesic, but go up only when there was enough scope to attack. With 5 interceptions, 5 blocks and 9 clearances between the trio, the Highlanders couldn’t really break Kerala’s central defence as Rino Anto and Lalruatharra exploited NorthEast’s defence from the flanks.

The offensive duties were mainly allotted to Siam Hanghal and Courage Pekuson who didn’t put a step wrong in the entire game with 81.5% passing accuracy between them. They distributed the ball into open spaces at every opportunity, which were created by the wide forwards Jackichand Singh and CK Vineeth, who stretched NorthEast’s full-backs. Their goal in the first-half reflected this tactics executed to perfection.  

NorthEast United get their tactics horribly wrong, again

NorthEast United’s biggest strength has always been their possession with the side at their lethal best when attacking in numbers in opponent’s penalty area. But, barring Delhi Dynamos no other team has provided them the comfort of that one-way traffic that they so badly desire.

There was a beautiful one-two move between Marcinho and Danilo Lopes inside Kerala’s penalty box in the first-half, which, though ended in a half-chance, showed a glimpse of what they can do. However, NorthEast’s fluid setup demands the whole team to be inclusive right from the back, which prevents them from pressing high up front and consequently, their attacks end up either in a safely cleared cross or a futile through ball. Even today, NorthEast looked most dangerous when they threw body forward, with 10 men and nothing to lose, in the second-half but for their unbelievably 3 poor finishing.

This raises some serious questions on part of coach Joao Carlos’ play, who has never really bothered to tweak it. The central defensive duo of Sambinha and Jose Goncalves has been defensively unsound from day one they haven’t improved an ounce in five games. TP Rehnesh’s red card should be credited to Sambinha’s inability to read an easy grounded pass through the centre, which turned the game massively in Kerala’s favour. The side backs, Nirmal Chhetri and Reagan Singh, were highly culpable for the goal, who were high up on the offensive leaving the defence thin.

The Showstopper

One of the biggest reasons why every team should have at least one leader like Sandesh Jhingan is the sheer passion he has for his club. Playing out of his favored side back position, the Indian defender shone in the central defence today alongside Brown and Pesic.

After a clinical win over NorthEast, both Meulensteen and Jhingan pumped their fists in the air and shared a warm moment. Their celebration reflected the intense planning and strategizing both did for the game and the defensive general ensured to throw his body on the line every time the side needed.

He made 6 clearances, 1 interception, and 2 blocks. Though today’s win would definitely go down as a brilliant team display that included Vineeth’s acrobatic diving header, Jackichand’s incessant work rate and Brown’s genius at the pivot, it was Jhingan who knit them all together. With their first win of the campaign now in the bag, Kerala will look to continue the momentum.

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