Kerala Blasters injury watch: Messi Bouli, Jairo latest additions to Schattorie's list of problems

The first half of the Indian Super League clash between Kerala Blasters and Odisha FC saw three players being taken off on account of injuries.

Kerala Blasters' Rafael Messi Bouli was taken of the pitch after a nasty collision with Odisha FC's Aridane Santana in the box during their Indian Super League tie on Friday.   -  ISL/ Sportzpics

When the Kerala Blasters announced its line-up for Friday's game against Odisha FC, one big absentee was star striker Bartholomew Ogbeche, who started on the bench.

Reportedly out due to food poisoning, Ogbeche's absence meant Rafael Messi Bouli got a start, as did Sahal Abdul Samad, pairing with KP Rahul to make up the team's attack.

However, it was an unlucky day in the office for Eelco Schattorie and Co. as injuries struck in as early as the second minute of the game, when Jairo Rodrigues pulled a hamstring while trying to control a pass. Having stretched out a little too much, he was helped off the pitch, with Abdul Hakku replacing the skipper.

Update on Jairo [as of November 23]

Jairo Rogrigues has been ruled out of the rest of the season, courtesy a Grade-3 meniscal tear that requires surgery. Macedonian defender Vlatko Drobarov has taken his place in the squad. 

Things got worse as a huge collision in the 23nd minute saw Odisha's Aridane Santana and Blasters' Messi Bouli collide in the box. Both players were trying to get to the ball from a corner, ultimately ramming into each other. An ambulance was called for Messi Bouli while Santana, who is also the current top goalscorer in the league, was stretchered off the pitch.

Messi Bouli was seen walking after being taken off, but was sent to the hospital to check for a possible concussion as a precautionary measure. Odisha FC later posted an image of Santana from the hospital, reassuring fans that he was recovering soon and well.

In the 52nd minute, Mohammad Rafi went down trying to challenge Diawandou Diagne for a long ball. He was seen grabbing his neck in pain, having borne the weight of Diagne, who fell right over him. Fans and management would have heaved a sigh of relief as the physios cleared him after first treatment by the touchline.

Kerala's suffering strikeline

With Ogbeche and Messi Bouli sitting out the game, striking responsibilities fell on Sahal's shoulders, or so he thought at least, taking the mantle of finding the net on himself.

The local favourite even had a moment in the 35th minute as he raced to beat three defenders to get the ball in the box. Odisha's Narayan Das tripped him, prompting the players and crowd to appealing for a penalty. The referee ultimately turned it down, denying the Blasters of an opportunity to break the deadlock.

Head coach Eelco Schattorie, who had a rough night until then with the injury concerns facing his side, was seen having an animated chat with the referee, C.R. Srikrishna, earning a yellow card in the process.

With a frustrating goalless draw looming large, the Dutchman brought on Ogbeche in the 77th minute to try and net one for the home team. The Blasters eventually settled for a point, with their hands full in terms of working on player recoveries going into the international break.

Kerala Blasters Injury Watch

Messi Bouli, Ogbeche and Jairo were the latest additions to a long list of injured players in the Kerala outfit.

Sandesh Jhingan did not feature for the Blasters from the start of the season after picking up an injury to the knee during a friendly against NorthEast United FC ahead of India's 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifier against Bangladesh. Jhingan underwent a surgery and is expected to be out for what looks like the entire season.

Mario Arques came into the season with an injury, missing most of the pre-season as a result. After playing just 27 minutes in the season opener against ATK, he had to be stretchered off in the 90th minute with a hamstring niggle, after coming on as a second-half substitute. Schattorie tweeted that Mario will need at least two to three more weeks to come back into the side.

TP Rehenesh got back into the playing XI in the game against Odisha FC but he was out with an injured ankle for quite a while before being able to start for the Blasters. Schattorie was forced to fall back on Bilal Khan, but a number of errors from the goalkeeper, who is playing his debut ISL season, added to the Dutchman's woes.

Messi Bouli should be back in action when the Blasters take on Bengaluru FC on November 23. Schattorie tweeted a positive update on the 27-year-old's health but was not as optimistic about Jairo, revealing a serious hamstring strain.

Midfielder Seityasen Singh was also out for a while with an injury, missing the first three games altogether and starting on the bench against Odisha. Singh picked up an injury in the start season having not played for a year owing to an ACL issue and, after some time out, is now back in the scheme of things for the Blasters.

Another midfielder who has been out of action is former Mohun Bagan man, Darren Caldeira. An injury from a collision kept him out of action. While he's back in training now, Schattorie will go slow in deploying him back into the middle.

Blasters central defender Gianni Zuiverloon pulled his hamstring and was stretchered way in Kerala's 1-2 defeat to Hyderabad FC earlier this season. Schattorie addressed the disadvantage to his team, recognising faults with the wingers in the team. "We missed a key player in the defence with Zuiverloon. He will be out for six weeks maybe," the Dutchman said. Bringing Zuiverloon back will also mean additional support for Sahal. "Once we have a fit and dominant midfielder who can take the game to him, Sahal will get more balls," the coach explained.

The Blasters have a long break before they take on defending champion Bengaluru FC on November 23. Schattorie has admitted that the team's problems go beyond injuries and the fitness concerns are not excuses for a few obvious faults in playing combinations and strategy but the team has some time to head back to the drawing board to rethink its plan and give the players enough time to rest and recuperate.

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