Blasters secure second win

Kerala Blasters defeated high-flying FC Pune City 2-0 at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Kochi. Liverpool-born Chris Dagnall put the Blasters ahead, right before the end of the first half.

Chris Dagnall (No. 9) scores the opener for Kerala.   -  H. Vibhu

The two coaches, new team boss Terry Phelan and Trevor Morgan, had stressed on Tuesday that the only way for the bottom-placed Kerala Blasters FC was to go forward. And on Wednesday night, the desperate home side pulled off a shocking 2-0 victory over league leader FC Pune City, with happy goals from Englishmen Chris Dagnall and Sanchez Watt, at the Nehru Stadium here.

It was only Kerala’s second victory this season, the win coming after six games, and it also saw the Blasters clear their first big hurdle and climb up a rung in the eight-team table. It is now in the seventh spot, with eight points from eight games, while Pune stays on top with 13 points.

It was clear that Phelan’s boys were hungry and desperate. They needed to win this game and they attacked from the word go. The team combined well with Portuguese midfielder Joao Coimbra, Spaniard Josu Currias Prieto and the speedy Sachez Watt, who was positioned just behind the two strikers Mohammed Rafi and Dagnall in a 4-3-1-2 formation as in the last game, working up plenty of crosses to the men upfront.

COUNTLESS CHANCES

Never before have the home boys produced so many promising crosses and coming from all sides, they confused the Pune defence. Even if a third of them had been converted, the Blasters would have led by three goals by the 35th minute, such was their domination. They had at least 10 good chances during this period.

Rafi first headed over, following a Rahul Bheke cross from the right and then Jhingan, Watt and Dagnall all messed up lovely chances.

Englishman Simonsen was clearly under pressure and he had to pull out his best to push away a Dagnall header soon after the half-hour mark.

The Blasters’ lead came just before the interval, even as the home boys kept clutching their heads in frustration. Right back Rahul Bheke, who had been moving up well, danced around a defender and sent a neat cross to Dagnall. The English striker wasted no time, turned around to ward off two defenders, and sent a quick left-footer to the right corner as the stadium erupted in joy.

OFF-COLOUR PUNE

Pune, who adopted a 4-4-2 formation and who made two changes bringing in Jackichand Singh and Pritam, clearly had an off day and at one stage, their goalkeeper Simonsen appeared to be barking at the defenders to buck up. Defender Sandesh Jhingan thwarted the lone dangerous move from Pune in the first half, clearing a perfect Nicky Shorey cross from the left in the 35th minute. The Blasters defenders, especially captain Peter Ramage and Jhingan, raised the bar too and played out their roles well.

With the players weary, the second half was not as action-packed as the first. But the Blasters increased their lead in the 60th minute. Dagnall, running through the middle, sent a lovely through pass to Watt and the youngster, who was later adjudged as the hero of the match, was quick to score with a left-footer to the right corner.

Soon, Phelan took out the weary Coimbra and Rafi and brought in Isfaq Ahmed and Antonio German while at the other end, David Platt removed Kalu Uche and Tuncay Sanli — the two men who had helped Pune beat the Blasters earlier in the away game — and brought in fresher legs. But it had no effect against the inspired Blasters.

The result: Kerala Blasters 2 (Chris Dagnall 45, Sanchez Watt 60) bt FC Pune City 0.

> Matchcentre

  Dugout videos