Kerala Blasters registered a convincing 2-0 victory over Indian Super League (ISL) leaders FC Pune City in Kochi on Wednesday. Chris Dagnall (45' + 1') smashed in the opener before Sanchez Watt (60') sealed the three points for the hosts.
The two teams went into this eighth round clash with pretty much the same team that played their previous match. Blasters, under their new coach Terry Phelan opted to stick with the 4-3-1-2 formation that gave them a draw against Chennai and had to make one change as Josue Currias came in for the suspended Bruno Perone.
Table toppers FC Pune City also made two changes to the team that drew against Goa with defender Pritam Kotal and winger Jackichand Singh coming in for Gouramangi Singh and Bikash Jairu. is effort wide.
Pune got the ball rolling and after a sedate start, the first chance fell the way of the visitors in the fourth minute as Rafi met a cross from Bheke down the right but could only send his effort wide. Pune were aggrieved in the sixth minute as Lenny went on a run after dispossessing Saumik and reached the byline before cutting back for Uche to finish but the linesman correctly deemed the ball to have crossed the line and signalled a goal-kick.
Kerala were dominating possession in the early exchanges and forced a corner in the 13th minute and after a short corner routine, Mehtab found Jhingan unmarked in behind the Pune defenders but the centre-back could not control the ball and wasted a glorious chance. In the very next minute Josue found Dagnall in the box and the Englishman’s knocked it across for Watt but he could not connect and Pune heaved a sigh of relief.
The home side continued to enjoy the lion’s share of the possession. Dagnall had a wonderful opportunity to give Kerala the lead as Coimbra dispossessed Lyngdoh and went on a run before slipping a pass to Dagnall who only had the goalkeeper to beat but his finish went agonisingly wide.
Chances were coming thick and fast for the home team and in the 28th minute, Dagnall was found on the left side of the box and the striker turned Kotal but his close range shot was blocked by Simonsen and Watt’s follow up header was tipped away by Simonsen again. From the ensuing corner, Dey swung in a cross and Ramage met it but the effort went over the bar.
Rafi went on a run from the left and shot just wide of a scrambling Simonsen in the Pune goal. Pune were getting no respite and Roger Johnson had to be alert to thwart a dangerous cross from Josue in the 40th minute.
David Platt shifted Jackichand to the right as Sanli went to the left to regain control of the match but Pune were having absolutely no joy in the face of a yellow onslaught.
Phelan was left scratching his head in the 45th minute after a version of pinball in the Pune penalty box after a Mehtab shot and Rafi had 3 chances to shoot but his final effort was blocked away.
Kerala did not have to wait for much longer for the much deserved lead and in the first minute of the injury time, Bheke’s cross from the right was headed straight to Dagnall by the Pune centre backs and the Englishman made no mistake this time around, rifling a close range shot into the top corner.
The home team went into the break with a deserved lead.
David Platt, no doubt concerned after a terrible display from his charges brought Costa Rican striker Yendrick Ruiz on for the anonymous Kalu Uche. Kerala were continuing where they left off as Watt again released Josue with a delightful outside of the foot through ball but his finish was straight at Simonsen. Watt was wreaking havoc among the Pune defense and he sent Dagnall on his way in the next minute but the striker’s shot was blocked by a sliding Johnson.
The Kochi crowd erupted in the 60th minute as Dagnall went on a run and passed to Watt who was in space on the left side of the penalty box who took a touch past Ravanan and finished it expertly into the bottom corner of the near post with his left foot to give Kerala a thoroughly deserved second goal.
The home team were not taking their foot off the pedal as Dagnall was released and he cut it back for Watt from the byline but his effort trickled wide in the 64th.
Pune looked helpless as Blasters continued to dominate the ball with some tidy passes and a visibly displeased Platt was seen prowling in his technical area.
Tempers flared in the 78th minute after and altercation between Josue and Verhoek and the referee had to intervene to prevent things from getting ugly.
Ramage’s long ball from the back released Dagnall down the left but his cross was miscontrolled by German and the ball bounced off his knees with the goal gaping. Immediately, he could have made amends for that miss but his shot from the right side of the box hit the side netting much to the disappointment of the crowd. Soon, Watt had an opportunity to score his second but his shot was blocked amid pandemonium in the Pune box.
Ishfaq Ahmed then went on a rampaging run through the middle and shot just over in the first minute of injury time. There were ugly scenes as Zokora and a Blasters’ staff got into a tussle after the final whistle, but it was quelled immediately by the other players and staff.
Sanchez Watt was the talk of the town as the 24-year-old literally tore Pune to pieces. The home team finally got their second win of the campaign as they put in a scintillating display of attacking football to stun the table toppers Pune who are still without an away victory in this campaign.
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