ISL: Chopra goal ends Kerala Blasters' losing streak

The fans had packed the Nehru Stadium game after game, eagerly waiting for this day. And on Friday night, the Kerala Blasters’ long wait for a victory in the Indian Super League was finally over.

Mohammed Rafi and Michael Chopra celebrate the goal against Mumbai City FC.   -  Sportzpics

The fans had packed the Nehru Stadium game after game, eagerly waiting for this day. And on Friday night, the Kerala Blasters’ long wait for a victory in the Indian Super League was finally over.

The team that went winless for seven games from last season, finally celebrated its first win in the ISL’s third edition, defeating Mumbai City by a lone goal at the Nehru Stadium here on Friday night.

The match-winner came after a dramatic piece of action from the Kervens Belfort and Michael Chopra combo in the 58th minute. Haitian Belfort latched onto a long cross from the right and with a couple of defenders crowding around him, hastily sent it goalwards. And the seasoned Chopra, who had looked threatening for a good part of this game, pounced on it, took a couple of steps, and foxed Mumbai’s Brazilian goalkeeper Roberto Volpato with a small tap of his right foot. As Volpato looked the other way, the ball slid into the near corner and Chopra rejoiced.

This was a game Steve Coppell’s boys clearly dominated and one which they should have won by a handsome margin.

DOMINATING DISPLAY

The home side showed its attacking intent early with the two wing backs, Josu Currias Prieto on the left and Sandesh Jhingan on the right, moving up the flank frequently and sending crosses into the box.

And refreshingly, for a team which had just one shot on target in its last three games combined, the Blasters managed to have one before the very first minute this evening but striker Mohammed Rafi’s weak header, off a Belfort cross from the left, was taken without much fuss by goalkeeper Volpato.

With the men upfront getting crosses regularly, the Mumbai defenders were kept busy. And standing out in the first session was Romanian centre back Lucian Golan who warded off danger quite a few times.

Just before the break, Chopra latched on to Prieto’s long diagonal pass from the left but his attempt was pushed away by the Mumbai goalkeeper. Moments later, Rafi rose for a header, off a smart Josu corner kick, but his effort went inches over.

At the other end, Northern Ireland centre-back Aaron Hughes, back after playing a World Cup qualifier against World champion Germany earlier this week, made a fine save, heading out a rising shot from Argentine Matias Defederico, Mumbai’s top scorer in the ISL this season.

TIRELESS BELFORT

The home side’s winger Belfort was a tireless runner, full of energy, and along with Prieto gave a lot of pep and punch to the Blasters’ attacking moves while the defenders Frenchman Cedric Hengbart, Hughes and Jhingan did a commendable job.

Soon after the Blasters goal, Mumbai made two changes, brining in forward Sony Norde and defender Lalhmangaihsanga for Boithang Haokip and Lucian Golan and it almost produced instant results. Haitian Norde raced forward on the left and his shot made the home defence sweat but the home goalkeeper Sandip Nandu pushed away the danger.

A few minutes after that, with Mumbai appearing slow and weary, the Blasters went on an all-out attack. Belfort, who looked dangerous all through, shook off his markers and sent a nice pass to Rafi. But Rafi, who missed plenty of chances, could not finish the job.

With four points from four games, the Blasters moved up a rung to the sixth spot in the eight-team table while Mumbai stays on the second spot with seven points. The Blasters now travel for a series of away games before coming home on November 8.

The result: Kerala Blasters 1 (Michael Chopra 58) bt Mumbai City 0.

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