Kerala Blasters emerged victorious in a battle of nerves to defeat Delhi Dynamos and book a spot in the final of the Indian Super League (ISL). (HIGHLIGHTS)
Florent Malouda, Bruno Pelissari and Emerson Moura were unable to find the net from their spot kicks, while Josu Currias, Kervens Belfort and Mohammad Rafique converted their chances for the Blasters.
The hosts started the game at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium on a positive note and the breakthrough came in the 20th minute, thanks to forward Marcelinho. A weak clearance from Blasters defender Didier Kadio found the Brazilian who slotted it home for his 10th goal of the tournament.
The response was almost instantaneous as Duckens Nazon made a brilliant solo run down the left flank and scored the equaliser away goal for his team with a brilliant finish. The Haitian striker latched on to a pass from Currias, cut in from the left on the edge of the box and finished it in the bottom right corner.
Dynamos coach Gianluca Zambrotta again opted for his preferred 4-1-4-1 formation with Marcelinho and Kean Lewis playing on the wings and Richard Gadze acting as the lone striker.
After dominating possession for most part of the game, the home side suffered a blow in the 29th minute as Milan Singh received a red card for a dangerous tackle on Mehtab Hossain, and that prompted Zambrotta to rearrange his formation.
The one-man advantage allowed the Blasters to control the midfield and as a result, and the Dynamos playmakers were unable to make inroads into the visitors’ defensive area.
The hosts were level on aggregate just before half time as Ruben Gonzalez headed the ball home from close to make the score 2-1.
The second half started with a bang for the hosts as skipper Malouda made a brilliant run through the heart of the Blasters defence, but his final shot missed the target by some margin. The rest of the half was a brilliant display of the Blasters defensive resilience and their consistency under pressure reminded everyone why they are considered the dark horses this year.
The Dynamos came close to scoring their third goal, but a glancing header from Malouda was cleared off the line by defender Sandesh Jhingan. The hosts were presented with another chance during the first half of the extra time when an easy rebound fell for Marcelinho after Sandip Nandy saved Malouda’s shot, but the forward’s shot rocketed over the goal post.
The Blasters will face Atletico de Kolkata in a repeat of the 2014 final on Sunday and the yellow brigade will be looking to clinch their maiden title in front of a passionate home crowd.