Carlos Marchena was unable to inspire Kerala Blasters to victory in his first appearance in the 2015 season as his side went down 0-1 against Delhi Dynamos in Kochi on Sunday.
Before the match, Blasters’ head coach Peter Taylor had said he was keen on fielding Marchena although the Spaniard was only fit to play about 45 minutes. Nevertheless, Marchena made his full debut at home in front of a packed stadium.
The World Cup and Euro Championship winner with Spain proved to be an asset as he used his experience to command the Kerala midfield and snuff out any Delhi attack in the first half. But as Taylor had said, Marchena was withdrawn in the 50th minute and had to watch the remainder of the game from the sidelines as Delhi grew in confidence to finally score the solitary goal in the 86th minute.
Marchena’s deployment in the midfield allowed fellow Spaniard Victor Herrero Forcada the freedom to move freely. Forcada combined well with Cavin Lobo, who was also making his debut for Kerala, to give the Indian international a chance at the goal from 30 yards, which was easily thwarted by Delhi goalkeeper Antonio Sebastiao Cardoso.
A minute later, Delhi’s Robin Singh and Gustavo dos Santos played an intricate one-two to allow the former a shot at the goal from a tight angle, which was palmed away by Kerala’s last man Stephen Bywater. Thereafter, there wasn’t much goalmouth excitement.
Delhi were restricted to a few shots from a distance as the well-marshalled Kerala defence managed to keep the visitors at bay. Ditto for the Kerala outfit whose passing work yielded only a cross into the box from Rahul Shankar Bheke in the 27th minute. The resulting looping header from Manandeep Singh was comfortably handled by keeper Cardoso.
From the 30th minute onwards, Delhi enjoyed a great deal of possession but Marchena held their ground. At the start of the second half, Kerala brought on Sanchez Watt and Ishfaq Ahmed and five minutes later, Marchena took his parting bow and was replaced by Bruno Perone.
It was perhaps fortuitous for Delhi that Kerala’s most creative player picked up an injury a few minutes later. Forcada went down in the 65th minute but Kerala’s lack of substitutions meant he had to play through pain.
The most exciting moment of the match came in the 86th minute when Florent Malouda, free to roam in Kerala’s half after Marchena left, found some space to turn in a cross that was met by a glancing header from substitute Richard Gadze.
After the match, Taylor said “I knew that Carlos (Marchena) would have to come off pretty soon because it was his first game and he was getting a bit stiff.”