ISL: Deependra shines as Kerala downs Delhi

Deependra Singh Negi made a memorable Indian Super League debut as he scored a goal and earned a penalty to guide Kerala Blasters to a 2-1 win over Delhi Dynamos on Saturday.

Deependra Singh Negi celebrates after scoring Kerala Blasters' first goal of the evening.   -  ISL

He came in quietly for his Indian Super League debut, replacing Karan Sawhney at the start of the second half, but Kerala Blasters midfielder Deependra Singh Negi soon made his mark stunningly.

The 19-year-old former under-17 India captain scored a goal just three minutes after his arrival, and then brought Kerala the penalty, which Iain Hume converted, as the home side defeated Delhi Dynamos 2-1 at the Nehru Stadium here on Saturday night. Delhi striker Kalu Uche had given the visitor the lead earlier, through a 35th-minute penalty.


The victory over the bottom-placed Delhi lifted Kerala to the fifth spot from the seventh with 17 points and gave it fresh hopes of making the knockout stage.

After all the turmoil in the Kerala camp, and two consecutive defeats, Deependra’s unexpected act came like a breath of fresh air. He was quick to settle down and was a revelation with his sudden raids. Ten minutes after his opening strike, the youngster, who was part of the Spanish second division club CF Reus a little more than a year ago, almost scored another goal, only to see it going narrowly wide.

Delhi was a shade better with the exchanges and Kerala moved ahead with long balls and Deependra’s goal inspired the home team in a big way, something which was lacking in the two recent matches. The spotlight was supposed to be on Kerala’s new striker from Iceland, Gudjon Baldvinsson who was replacing Mark Sifneos but surprisingly, it turned out to be Deependra’s day.

Wes Brown tried his best to keep the Delhi dangerman Kalu Uche on a tight leash but still it was Delhi which took the lead, through a spot kick in the 35th minute. There was a bit of drama on the left and the home team’s midfielder K. Prasanth appeared to dance around Seityasen Singh inside the box, trying to cut down the angle and pulled the midfielder down from behind. The referee was quick to award a penalty and Nigerian Kalu coolly converted it.

Deependra’s arrival in the second half and and his equaliser transformed the game. He was agile and alert and tapped home Jackichand Singh's corner to level the scores in the 48th minute. He was always a threat and some 30 minutes later, he was brought down in the box after a surging run and earned his side a pentalty. Hume, who is the all-time top-scorer in the ISL, appeared to stutter for a moment with the spot kick but still put the ball past goalkeeper Arnab Das Sarma to score the winner.

Kerala's new striker Baldvinsson, who made his ISL debut in the 65th minute, offered plenty of promise and one hopes that will lift the team further.

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