Kochi, December 11
Kerala Blasters FC will take a slender but important advantage in their Hero Indian Super League second leg semi-final to be played away after putting it across Delhi Dynamos FC 1-0 in the first leg at Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, Kochi, on Sunday.
Played in front of a massive crowd, Kerala Blasters continued with their impressive home run as they registered their sixth consecutive home win, thanks to a 65th minute strike from Kervens Belfort. Kerala were on a five-match winning streak at their home ground before this match and they seemed to be in good shape for this first leg semi-final encounter. With Mehtab Hossain returning from suspension and Josu Prieto also back, Kerala were at their best. Delhi Dynamos too looked good at start with all players being available and they almost silenced the huge crowd in the first minute itself. A long hopeful ball from midfield saw Florent Malouda take aim but a clearance saw the ball fall for Kean Lewis. Before the Delhi Dynamos winger could try his luck, defender Cedric Hengbart stood in his way and deflected the ball away for a corner.
A minute later, it was Kerala’s turn to give Delhi a scare. From a counter attack, Belfort ran the length and set it up for an unmarked CK Vineeth. There was Duckens Nazon to his left but the in-form India striker chose to go for goal and instead ended up hitting the side netting from close range. Delhi took time to show their attacking strength and top scorer Marcelinho Pereira went close in the 35th minute.
The Brazilian did well to push his way past Mehtab Hossain and Didier Kadio but goalkeeper Sandip Nandy proved equal to the challenge.
Kerala thought they had scored their opening goal and the stadium erupted in joy when Belfort put the ball into the net but that celebration proved premature as the assistant referee ruled that Belfort had handled the ball before scoring in the 45th minute.
In the second session, Belfort and Kerala Blasters were not to be denied. The home team drew first blood in the 65th minute when Belfort received a ball in his own half. The Haitian international ran quite a distance with the ball, sidestepped defender Ruben Gonzalez Rocha and took a chance with only the goalkeeper to beat. The shot wasn’t powerful enough but a deflection from the sliding Anas Edathodika was enough to catch goalkeeper Antonio Doblas on the wrong foot and the ball sailed into the net.
Delhi’s response was strong with Malouda testing the rival goalkeeper and 10 minutes later, Kerala survived their biggest scare. A corner kick from Malouda saw Kerala head it out but the ball came back for Marcos Tebar who lobbed it inside the goalmouth where Marcelinho headed it dangerously towards goal but Hengbart proved Kerala’s saviour by heading it off the line.
The second leg between the two teams will be played at Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, Delhi, on Wednesday.