Kerala Blasters vs NorthEast United became the most anticipated match of ISL 2016 and the crowd at Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, Kerala had their hearts thumping till the final whistle from the referee.
After Mumbai, Kolkata and Delhi qualified for the playoffs, the fourth and the final berth was at stake in this game and Kerala Blasters could have grabbed it with just a draw while NorthEast United needed to register a win in order to see themselves in the semis.
Both the teams boasted a good track record in ISL 2016 and guesstimating a winner was next to impossible. However, the expectations of the 54000 fans were met to the fullest while giving all the entertainment that a 1-0 game can endow.
The game kick started with both the teams attacking the opposition’s defense regressively and the crowd became sure of a fight between Kerala Blasters and NorthEast United. However, throughout the first half, all they got were half chances attempted by both sides.
Most of the time, the ball remained at the center with Kerala Blasters’ front line showing excellent linkups. NorthEast United, on the other hand, failed to startle the opposition but they too were staging an excellent effort in the defense.
The first half ended with neither Kerala Blasters nor NorthEast United getting an opener and their respective managers were seen dejected due to their team’s performance at the front.
The second half saw NorthEast United gaining some confidence and questioning Kerala Blasters’ defense. The team got its first chance at the goal during the initial stage of the second half when Alfaro took the ball into the box and found Seityasen. The latter took a shot at the goal but it had more juice than needed and the ball went way off the goalpost.
In the 58th minute, Katsumi Yusa took the responsibility and gave Emiliano Alfaro a good ball to run with, however, Stack anticipated the threat and claimed the possession of the ball. A minute later, Alfaro and Stack were again face to face when Seityasen passed the ball to Alfaro and the Uruguayan’s goal-bound effort was stopped by Stack.
The home side was cramped inside the box as NorthEast United was seeing a lot of ball at this stage. However, going against the run of play, it was Kerala Blasters who finally took the lead in the 66th minute. Cedric Hengbart shot an excellent pass towards Vineeth at the front and the winger cut the ball to his right and stroked a low ball into the far corner of the goalpost, giving the keeper no chance to tackle.
The game came to life after the opener by Kerala Blasters as both sides started attacking the opposition with regained vigor. However, Kerala Blasters never put their guards down and tackled every attack by NorthEast United.
The visitors tried everything to anything for scoring the equalizer but Kerala Blasters took the victory home and entered the semis. The crowd had all the good reasons to cheer and their winning holler was loud enough to let the other three semifinalists know about Kerala’s qualification.
Now, Kerala will take on Delhi in the race to ‘The Finals of ISL 2016’.
5 December 2016