Kerala Blasters beat Delhi Dynamos 1-0 in the first leg encounter of their Indian Super League semifinal clash on Sunday at Kochi’s Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium.
Kervens Belfort ran over half the length of the pitch before his shot took a deflection off Anas Edathodika to roll into the net, thereby giving the home team the edge going into the second leg on Wednesday. (HIGHLIGHTS)
Belfort also had the ball in the net in the 45th minute, but the linesman disallowed it for handball, despite the protestations of the Kerala players and the packed-the-rafters home support.
The result could have been much different if Kerala defender Cedric Hengbert had not cleared Marcelo Leite Pereira’s, popularly known as Marcelinho, header off the goal-line in the 75th minute.
Marcelinho, the league’s top scorer with nine goals not to mention five assists, was a constant thorn in Kerala’s flesh. Such is his importance to Delhi that one of their biggest tactic on the night was long balls on the right flank. Kerala left-back Josu Currais, who has been one of their best players this season, was constantly in trouble against the Brazilian, often resorting to stopping him with illegal means.
The Spaniard was eventually substituted in the 31st minute after a string of fouls on Marcelinho. Josu’s replacement Didier Kadio did a much better job stifling him. The Brazilian’s frustration was apparent when he lashed a shot wildly in the 87th minute. He was at the centre of an ugly confrontation at the full-time whistle, just minutes after the referee waved off a penalty shout when he was tackled to the ground by Kerala’s Sandesh Jhingan.
Kerala will be left feeling they could have scored more goals particularly after their first goal when Delhi, in their zeal to equalise, threw players ahead in numbers leaving them vulnerable on the break. Luckily for them, the hosts could not capitalise on this despite seeing their forwards bomb forward with the ball on multiple occasions.
It was a match that seemed like it had more goals in it. At the pre-match press conferences on Saturday, both managers had voiced their intention of going for the full three points and the first two minutes of the match were testament to that. Both teams had a chance to score, but Delhi’s Kean Lewis and then the Blasters’ CK Vineeth shot wide. But the tone for the match had been set.