The Iain Hume of seasons gone by returned yesterday as he scored thrice to give David James’ Kerala Blasters their first away win since October 2016 and it also meant that Delhi were still searching for their first win at home since November of the same year. Hume’s first goals of the campaign lift Kerala up to sixth in the table and leaves them only three points outside the playoff places, which is a stark contrast to when Meulensteen left. Kerala certainly look like a side on the up and Delhi, well, put it like this, they’re lucky there isn’t any relegation from the ISL because they’d be nailed on.
I commented in my preview for the game yesterday about the lack of goals both teams have scored and I’d opted for under 1.5 goals in my bet, so it’s safe to say I ballsed that up. The game itself was played at the JLN Stadium in Delhi and both managers made a solitary change to their starting lineups as Miguel Portugal brought in Gabriel Cichero, who came in at the back for Delhi and Kizito made his full debut for Kerala at the expense of Sifneos, who dropped to the bench.
Delhi started the game the brighter of the two, kicking from left to right and the first opportunity came their way with less than ten minutes on the clock as Chhangte, who was playing in behind Ngaihte, drove into the box, but unfortunately for him and Delhi, he couldn’t keep his rasping drive beneath the crossbar. It would prove to be a crucial miss as not too long after, the Blasters went one up. Pekuson, who was a thorn in Delhi’s side all evening, surged down the left and put a low ball into the area which was one of them that just had to hit someone to go in. As it happens, it came off the aforementioned Cichero and was going to be an own goal but it just so happened that Hume was sliding in to give the Canadian his first goal of the season. It’s amazing what a goal like that can do for someone’s confidence.
For all of Delhi’s possession in the opening period, their attempts on goal were either off target or rather routine for Chowdhury as Kerala retained their menace on the counter. Unsurprisingly, five minutes before halftime, Berbatov went off injured again, Sifneos his replacement. He just pulled up in the middle of the pitch, I’m not too sure if it was his hamstring or groin but it was definitely muscle related, so, when we will see him again this season is a mystery that even Scooby and the gang couldn’t solve.
Not too long after the Bulgarian went off, it was level; a free kick was awarded on the right-hand side and unlike the rest of the half, Delhi made it count. Romeo Fernandes put a delicious ball into the box where skipper, Kotal, got the faintest of touches with his head as it went past Chowdhury to send the home fans wild. I’ve watched the replay several times over and I’m still not convinced Kotal got a touch on it at all, but everywhere else seems to be giving him the goal, so I’ll join the party.
Sifneos made an immediate impact, not in the way the most you might imagine, though. On the stroke of halftime, he arrived late, after the ball had gone and took down Irueta in the home goal. Irueta managed to carry on for a few moments afterwards, but it was all too much in the end as Arnab Das Sharma was brought on for the Spaniard. In the end, the two teams played out a first half which went on for almost an hour with all the stoppages and what have you. Mental.
Portugal’s side were again the team who looked the more likely, but yet again, they were not able to trouble Chowdhury as the combination of Wes Brown and Jhingan stood strong. The closest they did come was when Romeo should have fired it across the box in the hope that someone got a touch on it and it went in, instead, he decided to go for glory himself and rustled the side netting. You think he would have taken inspiration from Hume’s goal in the first half, or not. Crucial.
Hume makes the difference
After that, it was all about Hume. His second goal was a that of a typical British centre-forward, yes I know he plays for Canada, but he was born in Scotland, so I can say that. He picked the ball up from a throw-in, bounced off one Delhi defender, drove past another, and put the ball into the bottom right-hand corner. Just like that, it was 2-1, sparsely deserved, but if you take your chances, then you’ve always got a bit of hope.
Hume’s third would only come minutes later, funnily enough, straight after Delhi had spurned yet another chance and it was as route one as you can get. Chowdhury pumped the goal kick upfield, Sifneos won the header far too easily and just like that Hume was through on goal; now let’s give credit where it’s due, Hume still had a lot to do, but his job was made a fair bit easier by the fact that Sharma came off his line to close him down. If Sharma had stayed put, it would have given the defence chance to get back and maybe thwart the ex-Leicester man, not a big chance, but a slim one is better than none at all. As the story goes, Hume chipped the keeper like the pro he is, made the scoreline 3-1, took James’ record to four points from two games and ultimately, put the game out of Delhi’s reach.
So that was that, Delhi had the possession and the chances to win, but their lack of quality in the final third and sloppiness at the back cost them again. With the success, if you can call it that, that Kerala and NorthEast are having since replacing their managers, Delhi must surely be thinking about wielding the axe. I can’t see Miguel Portugal resigning and his press conferences are starting to sound a bit daft, I’ll come on to that in the minute. The difference in the game was one thing and one thing only, Iain Hume.
Delhi Dynamos: Irueta (Sharma, 45+9), Kotal, Rodrigues, Cichero, Lumu, Moya, Fernandes (Fernandez, 65), Dias, Sekar, Chhangte (Seityasen), Ngaihte. Goal: Kotal (44).
Kerala Blasters: Chowdhury, Anto, Jhingan, Brown, Lalruatthara, Hanghal, Kizito, Pekuson, Jackichand (Meitel, 90+5), Berbatov (Sifneos, 40), Hume (Milan, 88). Goals: Hume (12, 78, 83).
Miguel Portugal didn’t have any gripes with the referee, which made a pleasant change, but he did have one issue…
“I don’t have any problems with the refereeing or the other team. Today only one team played football – The Delhi Dynamos. The other team scored three goals on the night but Delhi had a lot of chances to draw, even win.”
I’m not sure what his issue is, but he didn’t stop there:
“In the future, it is possible (for Kerala to change). David James has spent just one week with the team. For now, there is no change in their football (style).”
I don’t really get what his point is, if James can make it work, then why would you change it? Bizarre comments.
David James was beaming after the game and rightly so, he is ecstatic with how things are going so far:
“What we have done in the last week has been absolutely top-drawer. Be it with the players or coaching staff, everyone had been excellent,”
He was especially pleased with the response they showed to losing the lead:
“The players showed commitment and no fear. Even after Delhi had equalised, we did not lose our heads and kept going,”
James closed off by saying that despite the win, there is still room for improvement:
“There’s an improvement that can be made to every player, even Berbatov. I am glad he (Hume) got his first of the season! And then his second and third.”
The former Liverpool keeper will be hoping his side can maintain the same form throughout the rest of the season and make a dart for the playoffs, from there, anyone can win it, something which James will be all too aware of.
One more thing…
All things considered, if I was a betting man and luckily I am, I’d be lumping on Miguel Portugal to be the next manager to lose his job in the ISL. If only there was a market!