Resurgent Blasters destroy NEUFC

Kerala Blasters FC hauled themselves up from the despondency of repeated failures with a spectacular 4-1 win over home favourites NorthEast United FC.

Antonio German (L) has scored three goals in his last two games for Kerala Blasters.   -  THE HINDU

Kerala Blasters FC hauled themselves up from the despondency of repeated failures with a spectacular 4-1 win over home favourites NorthEast United FC in a Hero ISL match here at the Indira Gandhi Stadium on Sunday.

The visitors put in a fine performance with their all-English attack of Antonio German and Chris Dagnall, getting on the score-sheet. Cavin Lobo accounted for another goal for last year’s runners-up in their first away win of the season. Argentine forward Nicolas Velez scored in injury-time to grab a consolation goal for NEUFC, who disappointed a capacity home crowd with a poor game.

Putting German in place of the injured Sanchez Watt in the starting line-up proved a big move by the Blasters, who took the lead seconds after kick-off. This was definitely one of the quickest goals of the tournament as the Kerala side showed both grit and gumption in taking the battle against their charged-up hosts.

German went deep into NEUFC territory after playing a one-two with compatriot Dagnall and the suddenness of the attack caught the home defence off guard as the latter chugged up to the goalmouth unchallenged to slot home a measured cross.

Blasters coach Terry Phelan tweaked the line-up that had lost at home in the previous round (against Atletico de Kolkata) and made four changes to realign both the attack and defence. Sandesh Jinghan made it to the defence joining captain and Englishman Peter Ramage in the centre allowing Phelan to bolster the midfield by bringing in Spaniard Pulga alongside his compatriot Josu Currias. With Mehtab Hossain and Cavin Lobo, who replaced Ishfaq Ahmed, getting free roles in the middle of the park, the Blasters ruled the proceedings with regular forays in the attacking-third.

Hossain’s cleverness doubled the lead for the visitor in the 21st minute. The goal was more about two colleagues - on loan from the Kolkata giant East Bengal - combining effectively as Hossain set a long floater from near the halfway-line locating an unmarked Cavin Lobo near the NEUFC box. The latter caught the home defence napping running in unchallenged to score past hapless T.P. Rehenesh in the NEUFC goal.

NEUFC coach Cesar Farias strangely broke his successful combination of Argentine Carlos Lopez and Cameroonian Andre Bikey in central defence. The Venezuelan, who brought in seven changes to the side that beat Chennaiyin FC 2-1 in the previous round, paid the price of making too many alterations to a winning combination.

The second half did not change things for the hosts who went all-out in search of goals. With Jhingan and Ramage keeping a strong vigil in the Blasters’ box, the NEUFC attackers – Velez, Portuguese World Cupper Simao Sabrosa and later Diomansy Kamara – made abortive bids in their efforts to neutralize the visitors’ lead.

As host pushed more men into attack, German and Dagnall enjoyed laxity in the opponent’s vigil scoring once each in the 76th and 77th minutes to extinguish the hopes of the hosts.

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