Adrian Luna’s second-half strike powers Kerala Blasters to a win over Jamshedpur
Helming the affairs in the absence of Ivan Vukomanovic, Kerala Blasters assistant coach Frank Dauwen fielded the same side that beat Bengaluru 2-1 in the curtain raiser. Jamshedpur, on the other hand, made one change as Seiminlen Doungel replaced Nongdamba Naorem in the starting XI.
Jamshedpur suffered an early setback when midfielder Imran Khan suffered an injury on his hamstring muscle and had to be stretchered off the field as Ricky Lallawmawma replaced him in the 15th minute.
In the 40th minute, Prabir Das’ teasing cross from the right flank curled over everyone and missed the intended target Mohammed Aimen at the left wing. Luna was first to pounce on the loose ball and took a shot from distance. The ball descended a bit late on the trajectory as it narrowly missed the top corner of Jamshedpur’s net.
In the dying embers of the first half, Mohammed Aimen shrugged off the challenge of Nikhil Barla and Pronay Halder before cutting it back for Danish Farooq at the edge of the box. The lanky midfielder’s shot, however, was way off target.
In the second half, Jamshedpur defenders held their lines as it looked like they were playing for a point in the match.
In the 70th minute, the Blasters created the first major chance of the half as Vibin Mohanan passed the ball towards Jeakson Singh who made a through pass towards Aimen. The 20-year-old pierced through two Jamshedpur defenders in the left flank before finding himself in a one-on-one position with TP Rehenesh. Aimen tried to chip his shot past the keeper but put too much power for his liking and scuffed his shot.
The scoreline was level till the 73rd minute before Kerala Blasters switched play from the left to right flank and Daisuke Sakai drifted in before laying a pass towards Luna who flicked it with his heel towards Dimitrios Diamantakos inside the box.
It was a close marginal call for offside but Jamshedpur defender Laldinpuia played him on and the Greek international’s first touch took the ball away from his marker with Luna burying the ball into the bottom corner leaving Rehenesh diving for the cameras.
Jamshedpur almost pulled one goal back in the 81st minute through their substitute Rei Tachikawa. The Japanese pierced his shot past three Kerala Blasters defenders as it rocketed towards the bottom corner. But, Kerala Blasters goalkeeper Sachin Suresh parried the ball away to safety.
Luna did his best to turn into an assist provider in the 84th minute after chesting a long ball and chipping it with his sole towards Diamantakos at the edge of the box. However, Rehenesh came out of his line to make himself big and the ball landed straight on his thigh. Substitute Freddy Lallawmawma took a shot from distance on the rebound but Jeremy Manzorro made a vital block with his sliding body.
The Red Miners got a last bite of the cherry in the 7th minute of additional time in the second half. Manzorro whipped in his free-kick towards the penalty box but Sachin Suresh fisted it away as the referee blew his full-time whistle soon.
Kerala Blasters are only the second team in the tournament to make it two wins from two matches with the other one being defending champions Mohun Bagan Super Giant. It is still early days for the Tuskers to lay a claim on the title challengers tag but the wins over Bengaluru and Jamshedpur would provide them a whole lot of confidence. They will travel to Mumbai next Sunday.
Jamshedpur have failed to score a single goal in their first two matches with a draw and a loss to their name. They have less time to recover as they return home to host Hyderabad on Thursday.