ISL 2017: Kerala get Blasted

FC Goa well and truly demolished Rene Meulensteen’s Kerala Blasters as they made it three wins from four and kept pace with Chennaiyin and Bengaluru at the top of the ISL. The scoreline of 5-2 wasn’t even particularly flattering for Goa as they had 13 shots on target and 21 overall which would suggest that Blasters’ keeper Paul Rachubka had a half decent game, but believe me, he didn’t.

I’ve been doing some player and manager profiles for this site but this was the first time I actually sat down and watched a game, fair to say, I’ll be tuning in again as it was actually alright to watch. I say alright because the standard wasn’t brilliant, but it was definitely better than I was expecting, however, I’ll have to admit there were a few things that were going on that I didn’t like and frankly, there was some stuff that I didn’t understand.

Let’s start with what made me burn with rage; firstly, before kick-off, they have a countdown from 10 which is done over the tannoy and all the crowd join in, then the game kicks off. I mean what is that all about? I was expecting a rocket to be fired off from somewhere, but then I remembered I wasn’t watching a game in North Korea, so that didn’t happen. Secondly, every time Goa got a corner, the bloke on the tannoy will go “Make some noise” or something along those lines. I know the ISL is still new, but it is so cheesy it’s unreal, I guess they really have followed the MLS model. There are a few other things as well like there being trumpets in the stand and things like that but I don’t want to try and piss off the entire Indian population before I’ve even got started.

There was only one thing I didn’t comprehensively understand and that was at times during the game they kept showing a car and a moped which I am going to guess was a prize of some sort? Not bad is it really? See your team win 5-2 and then go home and tell the missus you’ve got a new car, what a Saturday that would be. I’m not too sure how you won it and with the commentator speaking in a foreign language, he wasn’t able to give me any pointers neither, cheers mate.

Anyway, enough of the moaning (for now), one thing that did put a smile on my face was a placard which was displayed in the crowd which said something like ‘we aren’t supporters, we are family’. It could well have been a left field marketing ploy by Sister Sledge, but nevertheless, I liked and it made me think that maybe this whole ISL thing isn’t too bad.

It has to be said that pre-game Goa were the favourites to come away with three points as whilst Kerala were unbeaten, they were still to register a victory in the ISL and this was shown by the bookies having Goa @ 10/11 and Kerala @ 3/1. Onto the game itself; it started as a cagey affair with both teams trying to keep the ball on the deck which was good to see and it didn’t take long until something caught my attention. I wasn’t 100% sure, but, I could have sworn the commentator said Jackie Chan but because of the language difference, I had no idea of the context, albeit, I thought it would be a bit bizarre that the commentator would be making racial slurs as open and as blunt as that.

Only a few minutes had passed before Berbatov (remember him?) was on the deck, for what reason I am not too sure but he was substituted after only five minutes. It didn’t seem like he was a victim of a nasty tackle or anything like that, so, one can only presume that he had to be on a Spurs phone-in prior to their game with Stoke kicking off and he completely forgot about it until the game kicked off. That’s my thinking, anyway.

Not long after the Bulgarian was taken off, there was a breakthrough in the game, only seven minutes had been played, when my new favourite Indian player, Jackichand Singh, bombed down the right wing and put a fantastic ball into the box which was expertly finished by Mark Sifneos to put the Blasters 1-0 up. He brought the ball down with his left foot and then the Dutchman struck it with his right in a real show of his ability to use both of his feet. In all fairness, it should have been a routine save for Kattimani in the Goa goal but the ball went underneath him after it initially looked like he kept it out. Believe it or not, this wasn’t the worst piece of goalkeeping in the game.

Only minutes later and the score was 1-1 as Lanzarote beat Rachubka at his near post after another good delivery into the box. It’s harsh to blame the keeper for that because the marking was absolutely horrific, but, speaking as someone who has played in goal before, it’s always disappointing to get beaten at your near post, especially when you get a hand to it as the ex-Manchester United keeper did. So, less than ten minutes on the clock and we had already seen two goals, I could get used to this.

It was almost 2-1 to the home side moments later as an effort on Rachubka’s goal, which should have been a routine stop, was fumbled and it very nearly fell to the onrushing forwards, but luckily he reclaimed the ball before they had a chance to pounce. Crisis averted, for now. However, in the eighteenth minute, Rachubka made another mistake and this time, it was punished. Goal kicks are an important part of the game and as more teams are trying to play on the deck and out from the back, you see more and more short goal kicks to the defenders as teams try and build an attack. It doesn’t work if the keeper and the defence are singing off different hymn sheets, though. Rachubka had three players to play it out to and he opted for the defender who was centrally in front of the box, but, he wasn’t looking when the pass was made meaning that Coro picked up the ball, slid in Lanzarote and he smartly finished to make it 2-1 to Goa just eleven minutes after they were one nil down. Turnaround.

With not much happening within the next ten minutes or so it gave me an opportunity to just watch the game and look at individuals in terms of their movement, passing range and what have you. The stand out player on the home side was their dictator, Ahmed Jahouh, who read the game brilliantly and also started the majority of the moves as he sat just in front of Goa’s back line. It speaks volumes for me how good Morocco must be because Jahouh hasn’t had a look in since the beginning of 2016.

For Kerala Blasters, it was Jackichand who looked the most likely as he was causing Goa’s defence a world of problems and it was no surprise that he was instrumental in Goa getting back on level terms. Once again it was down the right that Jackichand was having the most luck and after a smart interchange with Milan Singh, who was Berbatov’s replacement, he found himself one-on-one with Kattimani with a chance to make it 2-2. It was a chance he emphatically took and it was level pegging once again.

The rest of the half fizzled out with not much going on, to be honest; Jahouh got a yellow card for his troubles after a cynical elbow which prevented Goa from breaking on the counter and that was about that, not much else to talk about in a half that Goa dominated and would have been disappointed to go into the interval with the scores level, especially after going 2-1 up.

Obviously, we have no way of finding out what the respective coaches say in the dressing room at halftime but you can only imagine that Meulensteen said something along the lines of: “Another draw would be good lads, I’ve got £50 on us to draw every game this season, if we pull it off, we’ll have a right knees up” because what they offered in terms of attack in the second half was pretty much non-existent in comparison to Goa. The Goa coach, Lobera, seemingly got his boys right up for it and probably told them that Kerala were there for the taking as Rachubka had forgotten how to play in goal.

The second half began with them showing that scooter again and I’m left scratching my head as the game kicks off as I still have no idea what’s going on with it. Luckily, it doesn’t take long for my attention to be drawn away from the scooter situation as Goa retake the lead for the second time in the match and Jahouh is the orchestrator once again. He plays a through ball to Coro who times his run to perfection and he’s through on goal with only Rachubka to beat. In the form Rachubka was in, I think Oscar Pistorius would have scored passed him, let alone someone like Coro who is in the middle of a hot streak. Coro put it past him with ease as Goa went 3-2 up and with the way the game was playing out, there was no danger of Goa losing the lead this time around.

What’s French for Déjà vu? That’s always a good icebreaker I find, although it does at times leave people looking at you like you’re a complete idiot. Ah well, swings and roundabouts. Anyway, I was adamant I was suffering from Déjà vu when Coro made it two in three minutes to put Goa 4-2 up and put Kerala out of sight and on course for their first defeat of the season. This time it was the illustrious Brandon Fernandes who set Coro free as yet again, he timed his run immensely and found himself one on one with Rachubka who must have been getting sick of the sight of him. Instead of keeping the ball on the ground like he did the first time, he succeeded with an outrageous chip over Rachubka’s head that wouldn’t have looked out of place in any match around the world.

You would have thought by now that Kerala would have given up with the offside trap because it was rather apparent that they were unable to implement it effectively, but no, they persisted and once again it was exploited. The ball evaded Kerala’s captain, Jhingan by the finest of margins as another through ball penetrated their back-line and this time, Rachubka wasn’t having any of it, regardless of what happened. Lanzarote was the player set free this time, down the same side that Jackichand had made his own in the first half and much like Sifneos’ goal, it was all about the delivery. The cross was timed impeccably as Coro ghosted in at the back post completely unattended and finished first time to make it back-to-back hat tricks in what I believe is an ISL first. Rachubka got a sly kick on in him that he made look accidental after the ball had gone past him again, but I know your game Paul and you’re not fooling anyone.

So, Coro scored a seven-minute hat-trick to put Goa 5-2 up and probably left Meulensteen questioning his decision to come to India in the first place. He has a tendency to move when things get tough, not always out of choice either, but, you’d like to think he’s made of tougher stuff than to bolt after one defeat. Look on the bright side Rene, you can always play Wes Brown next game!

Rachubka did redeem himself ever so slightly throughout the rest of the second half as Goa had a further seven shots on target but overall it was an afternoon that Rachubka, Rene and everyone else involved with Kerala will want to forget about. From Goa’s perspective, it was job done and exactly what they were aiming for pre-game and sets them up nicely for their trip to Delhi to face Delhi Dynamos on Saturday.

So, looking at all the information, if I was a betting man and luckily I am, I would be backing Goa to win at Delhi Dynamos next week.

About the Author

Jake Flock
Football and writing are my two biggest passions, so seems right to combine the pair, don't you think?