Stubborn Kerala enters final with win over Delhi on penalties

After forcing Kerala Blasters into a shootout, Delhi Dynamos failed to progress, unable to score a single penalty as the southern side defeated Gianluca Zambrotta's men 3-0 to set up a final with Atletico de Kolkata at the Nehru Stadium.

After 90 minutes, the scores were tied 2-2 on aggregate.

Delhi Dynamos played the game but Kerala Blasters won it through a tense penalty shootout to secure a place in the final of the 2016 Hero ISL. Dynamos missed three penalties and Blasters scored three to win with an overall aggregate of 5-2.

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With 10 men to assist for 90 minutes, Delhi Dynamos forced a penalty shootout with Kerala Blasters at the Nehru Stadium here. The extra-time session ended with a 2-1 verdict in favour of Dynamos and set up a penalty shootout since the aggregate score was 2-2 following Kerala Blasters’ 1-0 win in the first leg of the semifinal at Kochi on Sunday.

Josu, Belfort and Rafique scored in the shootout for Kerala while German missed. For Dynamos, Malouda, Pellissari and Moura failed with the penalty shots. Blasters goalkeeper Sandip Nandy, after a poor 120 minutes, brought off a fine save on his left to thwart Moura in the shootout after Malouda and Pelissari shot wide over.

It was a furious regulation time. The pace that Dynamos set propelled the game a notch higher. Dynamos stunned Blasters with a Marcelinho goal but conceded the equaliser within three minutes to Nazon. And then Dynamos lost a man, a senseless charge by Milan that earned him a red card. Blasters had the advantage but it was left in a shambles at the stroke of half time when Ruben’s header got in much to the joy of the Dynamos bench.

A 2-1 score at half time was a true indicator of Dynamos’ domination. The way it regrouped and gave a superb demonstration of its endurance established Dynamos as the most exciting squad of the league. It shrugged off the pressure of having lost Milan with the game not even 30 minutes old and harassed the opposition through some sensational play by Malouda and Marcelinho.

Jhingan the difference

Malouda was a magical figure when he had he had the ball at his feet. He also created a few opportunities for Marcelinho and the Blasters had to thank Sandesh Jhingan, who brought off some brilliant sliding blocks and once a goal-line save when Malouda headed towards the target in the 77th minute. Jhingan was the difference between the teams as he played his heart out.

Sandip was shaky under the Blasters bar as he bungled on two occasions to concede goals even as Vineeth and Nazon stood out with their innovative suns, constantly looking to exploit the gaps. For Dynamos, Gadze was unable to create space and it all depended on Malouda’s untiring brilliance.

Tebar set up Dynamos’ first goal when he floated the ball and Kadio’s faulty clearance which was finished well by Marcelinho. The equaliser was a wonderful strike by Nazon, a skilful and clinical end to a move that saw him move past a couple of defenders and fire the ball into the far corner.

Dynamos, down to 10 men, continued to pound the Blasters goal but the latter defended stoutly. Blasters, however, paid for complacency when Tebar again created the floater that saw Nandy leave his post and the ball slide in off Ruben’s head. Once again Dynamos had played itself into the contest.

The second half saw Malouda come up with a few brilliant moves but Blasters, which brought in Belfort in the 55th minute, hung on, mainly through an outstanding performance by Jhingan.

In the final, Blasters meets Atletico de Kolkata in Kochi on Sunday.

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