ISL Analysis | Steve Coppell’s defensive masterclass stops Kerala Blasters at home

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ISL Media

ISL Analysis | Steve Coppell’s defensive masterclass stops Kerala Blasters at home

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Subhayan Dutta


Jamshedpur FC churned out their second away draw of the campaign as they successfully stopped Kerala Blasters with a robust defensive display in Kochi today. Kerala will have a lot to worry about after they failed to score in consecutive home games despite enjoying the lion’s share of possession.

Kerala’s composed buildup sees no end product

It was an established fact even before the match that Kerala Blasters were the better team on paper compared to newcomers Jamshedpur FC and the way the players were deployed showed it. While the visitors had a three-man midfield cushion in front of their backline, Kerala were pushing with a more penetrative formation that had Dimitar Berbatov, Ian Hume, Jackichand Singh, and CK Vineeth with offensive duties.

However, despite Kerala enjoying the lion’s share of the possession (65%) initially, their biggest issue was decision making in the final third. Coach Rene Meulensteen’s move to play the sturdy Courage Pekuson alongside Arata Izumi in the midfield from the wings, where he was deployed in last game, played out well as the duo had an 85% passing accuracy. However, all those constructive buildups were futile as the likes of Hume and Berbatov could take only one shot on goal in the entire first-half, with the players giving away the ball innumerable times in and around the box.   

Another major flaw of Kerala was not exploring both the flanks, as they failed to make a single cross from the right wing for the first three quarters whereas Hume and Lalruatharra’s meek deliveries from the left wing were all safely intercepted by a collectively defensive Jamshedpur.

Jamshedpur park the bus

The visitors came into the game with a good idea about their strengths from their opening game against NorthEast United and an experienced gaffer like Steve Coppell chose intelligence over ambition when they came to the home of last year’s finalists. Jamshedpur played with the whole team at the back and attacking at the break, with Kerala’s confident buildup helping their cause massively.

The centre half duo of Jose Luis Espinosa Arroyo and Shouvik Ghosh made six clearances, three interceptions, and two blocks with the three-man midfield contributing significantly with four clearances through Trindade Goncalves and Souvik Chakrabarti. A significant role was played by the experienced Mehtab Hossain in their pivot, who with a 73% passing accuracy held things brilliantly, feeding balls to the wingers who chipped in as many as 13 crosses (3 more than Kerala). There was a time when their centre-forward Izu Azuka came down to have one interception and one crucial block. All the patience almost bore fruit when Kerven Belfort narrowly missed bottom corner in added time.

The showstopper

With defence being the order of the day for the visitors, it was very difficult to see things on a positive note for Jamshedpur and if not for their old fox Mehtab Hossain, Coppell might have seen things differently. After a big name like Bikey saw red card last game, Jamshedpur had little to offer up front against a star-studded side like Kerala Blasters and the manager handed the responsibility of it to Mehtab.

While Mehtab didn’t get any chance to go ahead and ply his trade in the opponent’s half, his brilliance in holding the ball saved the day for Jamshedpur on more than one occasions. With a great passing accuracy, Mehtab played 33 passes in the 48 touches he had of the ball and was Jamshedpur’s go-to player every time they got a corner.

His experience was showing in the tackles he made, which were smart and acceptable. He got yellow-carded in the 56th minute but Kerala were frustrated by then. He made one block, one important interception at the edge of the box and two clearances, but most of the times took it out of the danger zone. After a gentlemanly first-half display by Kerala, the hosts grew hostile as time passed taking their tally of fouls to 15 in the whole game that saw Hossain being brought down twice in the process. After Jerry Mawihmingthanga was taken off in the last 30 minutes, who had much of the load in the wings, things became doubly difficult for Mehtab but he remained cool as a cucumber.


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