Atmosphere promises to be electrifying as ISL returns to Kochi

Yellow Army
Kerala Blasters enjoy huge fan support. Photo: Manorama Archives

The last time Kochi hosted an Indian Super League (ISL) match was back in February 2020. Kerala Blasters, who were already eliminated from the play-off race, ended their home fixtures on a high with a 2-1 win over defending champions Bengaluru FC. Bartholomew Ogbeche struck both goals for Blasters, including the winner off a penalty, after Deshorn Brown had put the visitors ahead early in the first half.

A lot has changed since then as another edition of the ISL kicks off at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Kochi on Friday. Blasters take on Emami East Bengal in the inaugural match.

The COVID-19 outbreak meant the last two editions of the ISL were played in bio-bubbles except for the final last season. Blasters, who finished 10th in the 11-team league in the 2020-21 season, were a transformed lot under Ivan Vukomanovic. The Serb made the Yellow Brigade a fighting unit in his debut ISL season and Blasters came close to winning their maiden ISL crown before going down to Ogbeche's Hyderabad FC on penalties in a pulsating final at the Fatorda Stadium in Margao.

They were leading 1-0 with two minutes to go before Sahil Tavora drew level for Hyderabad with a thunderous strike. Then it was the turn of Hyderabad custodian Laxmikant Kattimani as he saved three penalties in the shootout to deny Blasters. It was third time unlucky for Blasters as they had ended as runners-up to ATK in 2014 and 2016 as well.

Now as ISL returns to Kochi one thing is sure. It promises be a sea of yellow and the visiting teams will find it hard to silence Blasters' vociferous supporters. Vukomanovic has struck a chord with the fans and the atmosphere promises to be electrifying come Friday.

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