Kerala gets first point after goalless draw with Delhi

Kerala Blasters put its first point on the board after playing out an entertaining goalless draw with Delhi Dynamos.

Antonio German of Kerala Blasters tries to get past Lalchhawnkima of Delhi Dynamos.   -  Special Arrangement

For a side which was clearly down in the dumps before this game, Kerala Blasters won its first point in the Indian Super League after forcing a strong Delhi Dynamos to a goalless draw at the Nehru Stadium here.

But despite making its first mark on the league table, and also its first shot on target this season, the Blasters may not be a very happy side. For, it came close to shocking the Dynamos which had upset the defending champion Chennaiyin in its previous game.

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The home team’s best chance came just a minute before the end of first session when the experienced Englishman Michael Chopra raced into the box after shaking off the men around him. The centre-forward sent a diagonal shot from the right and it seemed to be on its way home. There was a roar of joy from the sea of yellow in the stadium, packed for the second straight home game, but the Dynamos’ Spanish goalkeeper Doblas pushed away the danger just in time.

Clearly, it was a story of missed chances.

With not many options available, Blasters head coach Steve Coppell had wanted his team to be a flexible bunch. And the home team proved to be just that. Left-back Josu Currias Prieto was a tireless worker, racing up the flank frequently and sending very promising passes to Antonio German and the others upfront. German, meanwhile, switched flanks frequently to confuse the opponent.

And for the first time in the ISL, the Blasters appeared to be dominating play to a good extent in the first half. And a few minutes before Chopra’s miss, there was a good corner around the 40th minute when Josu’s kick came in promisingly but Duckens Nazon failed to get a leg on to it.

Sandesh Jhingan looked impressive as he took care of the Dynamos’ Senegalese striker Badara Badji while the other central defender, captain Cedric Hengart, kept the visitor’s star winger Marcelinho, Dynamos’ two-goal hero in its last game, on a tight leash. And whenever the home defence appeared to be in danger, Chad midfielder Azrack Mahamat, one of Coppell’s three men brought in for this game, dropped back and offered a helping hand.

Marcelinho was the man behind some very promising Dynamos’ moves in the first session. He sent a beautiful cross from the right to Badji inside the box in the 21st minute but Jhingan and Pratik Chaudhary cut out the space for the Dynamos forward.

And shortly after the half-hour mark, after French World Cupper had Florent Malouda had done the initial work, Badji had a nice one-two with Marcelinho and as the Senegalese striker moved into the box, the Blasters goal appeared to be in danger but he was flagged offside.

The Dynamos suffered a big setback early in the second session when its goalkeeper Doblas, who had hurt himself in a clash with Jhingan a few minutes earlier, was forced to make his exit with Soram Poirei coming in his place.

A little later Hengbart, who had picked up a yellow card earlier, was replaced with Senegalese Eldhaji Ndoye.

Meanwhile Haiti’s Kevin Belfort, who came in for his compatriot Nazon shortly after the hour-mark, provided a few moments of excitement with his runs down the left flank. He put in a nice cross into the Blasters box after one such run in the 75th minute but Chopra was a trifle late to reach it.

With the game slowing down considerably and heading nowhere, the visitor’s Italian head coach Gianluca Zambrotta brought in Bruno Pelissari in the 65th minute but in the end the score remained blank.

The Blasters, now in the seventh spot after three matches and ahead of last year’s runner-up FC Goa, plays Mumbai City next on October 14 in its third straight home game. Meanwhile, the Dynamos moved to the third spot with four points from two games.

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