Kerala Blasters have progressed to the top of the Indian Super League points table with a narrow 1-0 victory against Hyderabad FC at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Kochi on Saturday.
Blasters' head coach Ivan Vukomanovic recently stated that the Tuskers have an obligation towards their home fans to give their 100% and more every time they step onto the field in Kochi. It’s safe to say that the players lived up to those expectations in this faceoff against Hyderabad FC, with a goal in the 41st minute by Milos Drincic helping them bag all points possible from their first fixture after the international break.
The resounding support that Blasters receive in Kochi was visible and how, when Drincic tapped in an assist by Adrian Luna four minutes before the halftime break. The home side had won a corner, and they overloaded players upfront to find a breakthrough past the Hyderabad FC backline. Luna received a through ball inside the 18-yard box and he was quick to spot an onrushing Drincic. The 24-year-old defender put the ball into the back of the net and helped Blasters head into the halftime high on confidence.
Hyderabad FC are dealing with challenges in their frontline this season, having scored only four times in seven matches this season now. Their major concerns come across in finishing off moves, as they went toe to toe in giving Blasters a run for their money even after trailing in the proceedings.
Jonathan Moya had a fantastic opportunity to get them ahead in the game even before Drincic's strike. At the tip of the attacking unit, Moya was responsible for efficiently optimising the opportunities that Hyderabad created. However, his headed effort failed to even test Sachin Suresh.
Unfortunately for them, no concrete chances came their way afterwards, with Blasters nearing doubling the lead. Drincic had an opening to bag a brace after his strike, but that effort did not materialise. However, Vukomanovic will be pleased with the effort that Luna put in as well. Arguably the most impactful individual in the league thus far, the Uruguayan again notched a decisive assist as his team continues to rally behind the relentless efforts he keeps putting in one game after another.
Chennayin hold East Bengal
A last-gasp goal by substitute Ninthoinganba Meetei helped Chennaiyin FC settle for an intense 1-1 draw against East Bengal in an earlier ISL match on the day in Chennai.
Owen Coyle and his men were dealt with an early blow as Ayush Adhikari found the back of his own net to get his team trailing in the 29th minute. In front of a home support, the Marina Machans made a comeback with Ninthoinganba's 86th minute goal.