Jamshedpur FC is in a tough situation going into Tuesday’s second leg of its Indian Super League (ISL 2021-22) semifinal against Kerala Blasters. It may be trailing only by a goal – after Blasters’ 1-0 victory in the opening leg – but it has a massive task on its hands against a confident, resourceful rival at the Tilak Maidan Stadium in Vasco.
Jamshedpur has to defend tightly – conceding an early goal could be disastrous – and it must score to equalise before it can afford to think of taking the lead and sealing its maiden spot in the summit clash. And it has to be sharper upfront: it cannot afford to waste the scoring opportunities the way it did in the first leg at Fatorda.
In that match, the Red Miners had three clear chances before Blasters took the lead, through a 38th-minute strike from Sahal Samad. Daniel Chima Chukwu was guilty on two occasions. Jamshedpur needs an improved performance from the Nigerian, who has netted seven goals from ten matches after his move from SC East Bengal midway through the season, and the team’s best player Greg Stewart, who had a forgettable game at Fatorda.
Talking ahead of the game, Jamshedpur coach Owen Coyle said his side's strategy would remain the same. "We won’t be changing our approach. Anybody that watches Jamshedpur knows that we go every game with a winning mentality, and we have to win this match if we wish to progress to the finals and for that to happen, we need to score those two goals."
He added, "In terms of our approach, similar to our final game of the season (league phase) against ATK Mohun Bagan, we knew that even a small margin or loss would have resulted in us being the Champions and the best team in the country, but we still approached the game to win the match, so our approach won’t change."
As for Blasters, it will be hoping its in-form, talented quartet in the midfield-frontline continue their remarkable run. Adrian Luna, Alvaro Vazquez, Jorge Pereyra Diaz and Samad have scored 27 of their team’s 34 goals.
If even one of them could come up with a moment of inspiration – as they have in the past – there will be plenty to celebrate for the Blasters fans.
Ivan Vukomanovic, Kerala Blasters' coach, said the first leg's result would have little bearing on Tuesday's game. "We won't even look any more at the last game, even that result 1-0. It doesn't give us any guarantee, no security for tomorrow's game. Tomorrow's game is a new game. It's a new day. We have to play with full concentration and focus on all the things that we want to achieve and show on the pitch," he said.
"Tomorrow we are starting our game 0-0, like playing finals, actually every game since we started this competition, it was like that because we don't expect anybody to help us. We have to enter the fight, it will be a physical fight, it will be even harder and more difficult than the last one," he added.