ISL: Hyderabad FC extend lead at the top, Sahal on target as Kerala Blasters return to winning ways

November 7, 2022, Guwahati

FootballIndian Super League


Kerala Blasters got their season back on track in the Indian Super League after a 3-0 victory over NorthEast United FC at the Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium in Guwahati. Dimitrios Diamantakos (‘56) and Sahal Samad (‘86, ‘90+6) were the two goalscorers for the Kerala Blasters.

Earlier in the day, Hyderabad FC extended their lead at the top of the table and nabbed their fourth consecutive clean sheet after beating Odisha FC 1-0 at the G.M.C. Balayogi Athletic Stadium in Hyderabad. Mohammad Yasir scored the only goal of the match in the eighth minute.

Ivan Vukomanović made five changes to the Kerala Blasters line-up, with three changes in defence. NorthEast United FC stuck with the 5-3-2 formation for the second game straight.

The game started slowly with neither side willing to risk anything, cancelling each other out in midfield, and struggling to carve out chances in the final third.

Romain Philippoteaux hit the woodwork from range after a little run from midfield in the eighth minute for NorthEast United FC, and Diamantakos found some space in behind in the 40th minute for Kerala Blasters, but his shot went wide. The two goalkeepers weren’t asked to make any saves either as the first half ended 0-0.

The coaches did not make any changes heading into the second half, but the two teams showed more directness by taking a few shots early in the half. The plan paid off for Kerala Blasters in the 56th minute. Saurav Mandal was played through by Rahul KP, and Mandal’s shot was met by Diamantakos, who added the finishing touch to an excellent team move.

NorthEast United FC came extremely close to equalising twice in the space of two minutes. The first chance fell to Imran Khan, who got on the end of a brilliant cross, but could not get the right connection. Emil Benny got on the end of an even better chance a minute later after being played through by Matt Derbyshire. Despite rounding off the goalkeeper, Benny’s touch was too heavy, and ultimately not even resulting in a shot.

NorthEast United FC were punished two minutes later by Sahal Samad, who finished off a rapid counterattack to give Kerala Blasters a 2-0 lead. The substitute added another goal six minutes into second-half stoppage time to give his side a 3-0 victory.

NorthEast United FC’s problems in front of goal, and in defence continue. They remain in last place and will be facing ATK Mohun Bagan Vivekananda at the Yuba Bharati Krirangan in Kolkata next week in search of their first win of the season. Kerala Blasters FC have moved to 7th in the table with six points in five games and will be hosting FC Goa at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Kochi.

Hyderabad extend lead
In the day’s other match, both sides made just one change to their respective line-ups. Eyebrows were raised as Manolo Marquez decided to bench Bartholomew Ogbeche as Borja Herrera took his place in behind striker Javier Siverio. Shubham Sarangi missed this game for the visitors due to an injury he picked up in the last match while Denechandra Meitei slotted into the right-back position.

The deadlock was broken inside ten minutes. Halicharan Narzary was twisting and turning on the left flank before whipping a cross past Meitei. The cross was headed into the bottom right corner by an unmarked Yasir in the eighth minute.

Sixteen minutes into the game, Herrera tried his luck from range, but his effort flew wide of goal. Three minutes later, Raynier Fernandes limped off with an injury and was replaced by Isaac Chhakchhuak.

At the half-hour mark, the hosts were presented with a glorious opportunity to double their lead. Nikhil Poojary sprinted into the box from the right flank and opted for a lob towards Narzary instead of a low pass. The ball bounced right in front of the winger as his shot flew over the bar.

Odisha FC head coach Josep Gombau made one change at halftime as Pedro Martin came on to replace Diego Mauricio. Six minutes after coming on, the Spaniard dodged his marker before getting a shot on goal. However, the effort lacked power and was collected comfortably by the keeper.

Two minutes later, Nandhakumar Sekar crossed the ball in from the left before Jerry Mawihmingthanga’s header was blocked by Akash Mishra. On the counter, Joao Victor slid the ball through to Hitesh Sharma but the midfielder could not keep his shot on target.

Ogbeche came on for Siverio just before the hour mark. The Nigerian had a great opportunity to score in the 70th minute. His powerful close-range strike was saved by a diving Amrinder Singh.

Three points against the Juggernauts increased Hyderabad FC’s lead at the top of the table. They are now four points clear of FC Goa in second place. The defending champions will travel to Jamshedpur to face the ISL 2021-22 Shield winners on November 9, Wednesday.

The Juggernauts remain in third position, level on points with FC Goa. They will get a break during Matchweek 6 and then travel to Kolkata for their next game against East Bengal FC on November 18, Friday.

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