Aravind Unnikrishnan discusses three talking points about the Indian Super League game that finished Kerala Blasters 1-1 Mumbai City
Kerala Blasters stretched their winless streak to three games with the latest coming against a resilient Mumbai City F.C side at JHL stadium in Kochi. The home side put forth a dominant performance, much to the delight of roaring crowd, but a 77th minute strike from Mumbai City FC’s Balwant Singh cancelled out the Mark Sifneos opener that kept them in lead until the closing stages.
Here are three things we learned from the match
Dominant display marred by wasted chances for Kerala Blasters
The Kerala fans could not have asked for more when Sifneos’ half-volley bulged the back of the net for the first time this season giving Kerala Blasters a one goal lead. Some scintillating attacking football in the opening minutes must have emanated a perception across the fans that their head coach Rene Meulensteen had finally seemed to get the best out of the squad. But it didn’t last for long as the likes of CK Vineeth, Jackichand Singh and Courage Pekuson squandered the chances created in the opening minutes.
In total Kerala Blasters had 18 shots on goal with three shots on target but it barely tells the whole story of their dominant display in first half. Nevertheless, it did extend some insight into the wasteful attack Rene Meulensteen needs to work on before their next match against F.C Goa.
Mark Sifneos, who bagged the opening goal had put up an impressive performance that would have definitely caught the watchful eye of Meulensteen. His darting runs across the frontline supporting the attack added a new dimension to Kerala’s attack which often created problems for the Mumbai defence. Kerala fans wouldn’t be surprised if the flashy attacker leads their attack in next match.
Berbatov thrives in new role
To see a winger controlling the game from a deeper central midfield position in his later years is not a new thing in football. Players like Ryan Giggs did this with ease into his 40’s while playing for English club Manchester United.
Good vision and ability to pick the right pass makes their transition all the more smooth, although the startling runs with the ball will remain a distant memory for them. But to see a striker in this position seems uncanny given the huge diversity of work one has to put in at the heart of midfield. Yet, the lanky Bulgarian continued to thrive in this position for the second straight match.
Dimitar Berbatov had started in a deeper midfield role and helped Kerala dominate the midfield with a disciplined performance. He orchestrated the attack with the composure of a proper midfielder.
The magic he could produce was clearly visible when Jackichand Singh saw himself in a one-on-one situation when he collected the long ball played forward by the 36-year-old forward from halfway line, though the Indian forward only managed to put it over the bar.
At 36, many thought he would be more of a slow-paced forward past his abilities. But Rene had other ideas that eventually saw the rejuvenated Berbatov thriving in a newer midfield role.
Hume can still play a part but in a new role
Iain Hume’s presence didn’t add much to their quest for the winning goal as he endured a difficult spell against Mumbai City F.C. His brief second half cameo lit up the crowd but the Canadian forward failed to latch on to the opportunity with a sluggish performance.
But his undisputed ability to turn around games can be a crucial asset for the Kerala Blasters in the long run. And he can do that by replacing Peksuson whose recent struggles can come as blessing in disguise for the Canadian forward.
Courage Pekuson currently has an upper-hand due to his energetic runs from midfield, but his sloppy through balls and erratic shots on goal could keep the door open for other players to prove their worth.
Hume is known for his short bursts through the center with the ball stuck to his feet. Also his ability to make accurate passes along with incredible finishes would make him a perfect fit to fill in for Pekuson.
With Vineeth banned for the next game, Hume might get a call to impress the boss after a slow start to his second stint at Kerala Blasters.
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