KICK-OFF: Dec. 4, 7.30PM IST (GMT +5.30), Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, Kochi.
Channel; Streaming: Star Sports HD1, 1, 3; Hotstar, Jio TV.
Kerala Blasters will find out if they are contenders or pretenders for the play-off positions when they take on Jamshedpur FC in Kochi tonight. Kerala finally stemmed their haemorrhaging run of three defeats by getting a point in their previous match against Chennaiyin. The goalkeeper Dheeraj Singh excelled in the tie against Chennai and will be the key player going into tonight’s game.
The Indian players Len Doungel, Sahal Abdul Samad have come good for Kerala Blasters, but Halicharan Narzary signed from Northeast United has been underwhelming. The Slovenian and Serbian forwards Matej Poplatnik and Slaviša Stojanović will need to contribute a lot more if Kerala have serious ambitions of making it to the playoffs.
Although they are decent defenders, Sandesh Jhingan and Nemanja Lakic-Pesic have been prone to individual errors. They cannot afford to be complacent in tonight’s game against Jamshedpur’s mobile attacking trio of Micheal Soosairaj, Carlos Calvo and Pablo Morgado.
Jamshedpur FC played out a dull draw against Northeast United in their previous match with neither team breaking a sweat. With a good defender in Tiri at the centre of defence and the Spanish-Brazilian duo of Mario Arques and Memo formidable in midfield, they are strong favourites going into tonight’s game.
Their only perceived weakness will be upfront with Sumeet Passi still finding his feet and Tim Cahill still unable to turn on the level of football he’s capable off. The reverse fixture between the two teams ended in a score draw earlier in the season.
With Mumbai City creeping ahead of them on the points table yesterday and with Kerala Blasters having forgotten how or what three points look like, Jamshedpur have both reason and rhyme to get a win tonight.
FULL-TIME: Kerala Blasters 1-1 Jamshedpur FC
77′ – GOAL! 1-1 (S. Doungel, Assist: S. Stojanovic, Kerala Blasters)
66′ – GOAL! 1-0 (Carlos Calvo, Penalty, Jamshedpur FC)
Kerala Blasters: 80′ M. Poplatnik (Sahal A. Samad); 51′ CK Vineeth (H. Narzary); 40′ C. Pekuson (K. Keziron).
Jamshedpur FC: 75′ Farukh Choudhary (Malsawmzuala); 46′ Pratik Chowdhary (M. Rahman); 12′ Jerry M. (Michael Soosairaj).
Kerala Blasters could not convert their dominance into a win as they slumped to a draw against Jamshedpur FC in front of a depleted home crowd last night. The Kerala Blasters fan group Manjappada is protesting against the manager David James’ playing style, their indifferent start to the season and their policy on recruitment of players. The group called for a boycott of the match via a poll on social media and a resounding 85% (around 18,000) of fans said “Yes” to the boycott. The stadium attendance which usually hovers around 30,000 odd supporters had about 8500 fans filling in the stadium.
Moving onto the game, Kerala Blasters were all over Jamshedpur FC in the first half, but that didn’t translate into a goal. Len Doungel had a couple of good opportunities with one of his shots cleared off the goal line from the defender. Sahal Abdul had a shot hit the post and the Ugandan Keziron Kizito made a couple of penetrating runs.
In the second half, much against the run of play, Tim Cahill was set free on the counter and was onto the goal. The Kerala custodian Dheeraj Singh rushed forward and took out Cahill just outside the 18-yard box. A grave refereeing error followed and a penalty was awarded to Jamshedpur FC. Carlos Calvo stepped up to take the penalty and smashed it in.
In the 77th minute, Kerala got the equaliser when Len Doungel after 25 odd shots on goal from the start of the season finally got himself his first goal.
After the equaliser, Jamshedpur laid a late siege on the Kerala Blasters goal, but Dheeraj Singh ensured the game played out into a point apiece for the two sides. Jamshedpur lacked creativity in the final third tonight. With the early substitution of Michael Soosairaj due to injury and Sergio Cidoncha out for a few weeks, they struggled with build-up play. This is a crucial point in their season and they need to get things right sooner rather than later with Mumbai City FC and ATK primed to land a playoff position in their stead.
Kerala Blasters and Jamshedpur FC have drawn more than half their matches this season. With both teams lacking the ability to close out games, it’s not hard to see why this game ended up in a draw.