A place in the final after six years for Kerala Blasters
Express News Service
A hallmark of great teams is that they know how to suffer and still come out of the other end triumphantly. And the Kerala Blasters class of 2021-22 belong to that school as they produced a masterclass in resilience against Jamshedpur FC.
After an early goal, Blasters led the two-legged semifinal by a 2-0 aggregate (1-0 from first leg), and what was expected to be a comfortable night at the Tilak Maidan in Vasco turned into an acid test of their credentials.
Jamshedpur threw everything at Blasters for 45 minutes and while they did snatch an equalizer, Blasters held on and progress to the final for the first time since 2016 with a 2-1 aggregate score.
Having missed out on the ISL title after two heartbreaking defeats in the finals, Ivan Vukomanovic and Co have another opportunity to try and deliver the silverware that the fans have been desperately craving all these years.
It was a game of two halves where Blasters were in control in the first half while it was all Jamshedpur in the second.
At times, Vazquez looks to over-complicate things because of the array of skills he possesses in his locker. Blasters could have handed Jamshedpur a massive blow as early as the second minute.
The Spanish striker found himself one on one with TP Rehenesh after a deflection from a Jamshedpur defender fell kindly to him. With all the time in the world to pick his spot, Vazquez tried a cheeky chip over Rehenesh only to see his shot go well wide. The entire Blasters dugout and Vazquez were left in disbelief as a golden chance went begging.
The men in yellow looked intent on trying to increase their advantage from the first leg as they had Jamshedpur pegged back as they kept attacking and pushing men forward.
If Vazquez had missed a routine finish, skipper Adrian Luna produced another moment of brilliance to put Blasters in the driving seat. Luna’s movement and vision has created problems for teams all season and he unsettled the well-drilled Jamshedpur defence here. After he received a flick-on from Vazquez, the Blasters skipper tiptoed his way past his marker before almost passing the ball into the far corner with a side-foot finish.
Despite missing a key player like Sahal Abdul Samad who got injured during training and missing gilt-edged opportunities early in the game, Blasters showed why they are one of the most balanced teams in the league as they dominated Coyle’s side in the first half.
However, the second half was a different story, and it is for a reason that Jamshedpur is the Shield winners and they equalized minutes into the second half as Pronay Halder scored from a corner after the Blasters defence was caught napping. Jamshedpur’s superior bench strength meant that Coyle was able to call upon super subs like Jordan Murray to try and change the game as Blasters started retreating into their own half with each passing minute.
It was a relentless wave of pressure from Jamshedpur as Blasters looked to try and preserve their slender lead and were desperately defending.
Going forward, Blasters were starting to feel the absence of a player of Sahal’s quality as they were struggling to move the ball forward to their attacking players.
It looked like they were on the ropes but the players withstood wave after wave of attack to book a place in the final and have another shot at glory.
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