If you thought Mumbai City FC’s lot yesterday was desperate, you need to see Northeast United FC in the Indian Super League table and make some calculations. It is do or die for Northeast United but even Kerala Blasters FC can’t afford anything less than a win.
Northeast United Get Capdevila Back; Kerala Blasters Lose James
Northeast United showed their intent well before the match with their team sheet.
They picked 3 strikers in the form of Durga Boro*, James Keene, and Seiminlen Doungel.
They also welcomed back Joan Capdevila to their defence and must have been feeling especially thankful for it.
That good feeling was balanced off by the absence of their playmaker Koke. Kerala Blasters started without David James between the sticks, despite of what he had said in his pre-game press conference.
If that wasn’t loss enough, their team sheet didn’t have the likes of Raphael Romey, Sandesh Jhingan, and Colin Falvey either. They made massive changes which could have come back to bite them in the arse but they didn’t.
When I saw the team sheets, I immediately thought that the game would be one of those end to end affairs as opposed to being one where everyone is trying not to lose before trying to win. Oh, how they would prove me right and wrong at the same time. They played an entertaining game but couldn’t score.
Two Teams with the Desire to Win
The first good moment of the first half came from Milagres Gonsalves in the 8th minute.
Iain Hume found him with a wonderful through ball. Milagres was free to run at the keeper but he was offside by a hair’s breadth.
It was symptomatic of the game because Kerala Blasters were on top in the early stages of the first half. Even though Kerala Blasters were on top, it was only in relative terms. It was like this. Kerala Blasters would attack a couple of times.
Third time, Northeast United would steal the ball and launch a counterattack. The whole game was a case of rinse and repeat of this pattern.
Northeast United Shade It In Terms Of Chances
On one of those counterattacks, Northeast United won a corner. The corner came in and was headed well into the far corner only to be cleared by a man on the line.
The clearance dropped over Sandip Nandy who fumbled it. It stayed out though.
Northeast United would get another great chance again a minute later through one of their most eager players. Kondwani Mtonga, I think it was, set the man who likes this song free in the box. The player got a wonderful shot off that was saved by the keeper**.
Kerala Blasters got their own chance from a corner in the form of Nirmal Chettri. It was a good run from Chettri into the 6 yard box but he couldn’t control his header enough.
The first half was brought to a close with a super shot from Felipe from outside the box. I didn’t know he had that in his locker. The keeper saved the shot unfortunately.
Poor Finishing Defines the Game
Within 3 minutes of the second half, Kerala Blasters fashioned a chance for themselves. Penn Orji’s cross came from their left flank and glanced off Hume’s head.
This was the 3rd time I think that Hume has been unable to reach a good cross. He is only 5’ 7” only after all.
Will someone please explain to me why Kerala Blasters’ game is focused on crossing from the flanks? Could someone please tell me who their big target man is? Hume and Milagres are both lightweight runners.
Kerala Blasters also had a penalty claim a little while later which was turned down. Right after that, Stephen Pearson spurned a sitter. The freekick was dropped into the far post from the right side. It dropped perfectly for the onrushing Pearson who, for some reason, went for power. He could have just side footed it into the net. With finishing like that, it’s no wonder that the game ended goalless.
I don’t know what magic wand James waved at his players but they seemed to have more purpose in the second half. They crafted chance after chance in the first 15 minutes of the second half and only poor finishing kept the score nil-nil.
Kerala Blasters Dominate the Second Half
Both head coaches tried to influence the game from the side-lines. James brought on Michael Chopra while Ricki Herbert sent in Alen Deory. The best chance of the game fell to Kerala Blasters.
It was again off a corner and it was again Chettri. Chettri came into the box like a freight train and jumped like an airplane before heading the ball like a bullet train.
It was a great header but the problem was that it hit the outside of the post and went out for a goal kick.
A couple of inches to the inside and it would’ve been a goal. Actually, I wanted it to be because it was a great bit of skill and desire from another Indian player. I want Indians to get as much attention as they can in the ISL.
Northeast United’s best chance came in the 73rd minute when James Keene was set free after he broke the offside trap. The keeper, Nandy, was on top of it again as he rushed in, made himself big, and blocked Keene’s effort.
The Referee Makes a Hash of Things
The biggest controversy of the game came in the 75th minute. Chopra, who I don’t like if you don’t know, tackled Keene from behind in a dirty, filthy, stinking tackle. It was a malicious tackle to which Keene reacted aggressively and justifiably.
He raised his hands and pushed at Chopra’s face, who flopped like a spineless fish. When the dust settled Keene was sent off and Chopra was given a yellow card. Oh, and btw, the game was ruined. It was 11 vs. 10 from this point on.
I’m sorry but I don’t agree with that decision from the referee. I mean if you want to give a red card then both of them deserve it. You can’t give one a yellow and the other a red. There’s no place for such tackles in such a beautiful game and they need to be stamped*** out in the Indian Super League before they grow in frequency.
I don’t know what the rules are in the Indian Super League regarding retrospective punishment but Chopra must be punished for that tackle. It was a career ending tackle that could’ve broken a leg.
Kerala Blasters Fail to Get the Goal
After that controversy, the game became a little strange. I consistently saw more Kerala Blasters player near Northeast United’s keeper, Rehenesh TP than his defenders. Moreover, there were lots of gaps in the midfield too. I think fatigue had become a problem by then as well.
The last 5 minutes were all about Kerala Blasters attacking and Northeast United defending. It was like a practice match. Northeast United still managed to make another great chance. Mtonga had the keeper on a one on one but he fluffed his lines.
In the end, Kerala Blasters couldn’t make their one man advantage count and the two teams played out an entertaining draw. They had a number of chances in the last few minutes but hey just couldn’t finish them well enough.
I don’t think either team will be happy with this result. They both needed 3 points but only got 1. This means that there is no movement in the league today and the table remains the same.
*Durga Borough – sounds like an English Premier League in Kolkata, doesn’t it? Meh…
**In case you’ve not figured it out. It was James Keene.
***All puns intended.