Dimitrios Diamantakos’ brace powers Kerala Blasters to a 2-0 win over NorthEast United
Kerala Blasters defeated NorthEast United 2-0 at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Kochi to climb to the third spot in the 2022-23 Indian Super League season with 28 points from 15 matches. Dimitrios Diamantakos’ brace in the first half was enough to separate the two sides.
Kerala Blasters entered the field in a 4-4-2 formation with veteran Karanjit Singh picking up the gloves. Harmanjot Khabra, Hormipam Ruivah, Victor Mongil, and Jessel Carneiro formed the back four with Rahul KP, Jeakson Singh, Adrian Luna, and Bryce Miranda playing as the four midfielders. Apostolos Giannou and Dimitrios Diamantakos played as the two strikers.
NorthEast United, too, fielded themselves in a 4-4-2 formation. Arindam Bhattacharja donned the gloves with Gurjinder Kumar, Aaron Evans, Gaurav Bora, and Alex Saji forming the back four. Jithin MS, Parthib Gogoi, new signing Joseba Beitia, and Emil Benny played as the four midfielders ahead while Romain Philippoteaux and Kule Mbombo played as the two strikers upfront.
Diamantakos knocked on the doors in the first minute itself when he cut through the left flank and unleashed a shot. However, Arindam positioned himself perfectly to collect the ball. Bryce Miranda crossed the ball low from the left flank towards Giannou whose first-time shot rolled past the sticks.
Miranda slid in with another low cross in the 29th minute but Adrian Luna’s volley at the far end missed the mark by a whisker. Kerala Blasters continued piling pressure on the left flank with Miranda laying a pass towards Giannou. The latter played a back pass towards Diamantakos’ whose shot was saved by Arindam from close range in the 37th minute.
With the entire NorthEast United defense up to play the offside trap, Miranda was smart to hug the bylines and receive a pass from a throw-in. The latter unleashed a looping cross towards Diamantakos at the centre who towered above his marker to nod the ball home in the 42nd minute.
Diamantakos beat the offside trap once again as he received a chipped pass from Adrian Luna to make a run through the centre. The former slotted the ball past Arindam from a one-on-one situation as Kerala Blasters found themselves two goals upfront by the end of the first half.
Diamantakos fired a piledriver from outside the box in the 50th minute but the ball sailed over the crossbar as Kerala Blasters continued to pile on the pressure after the change of ends. Rahul KP let loose a shot from outside of the box as well but the keeper collected the ball cleanly.
Parthib Gogoi made a scorching run in the right flank and delivered a low cross towards the centre. However, Philippoteaux was unable to keep his first-time shot on target in the 77th minute.
Dimantakos once again found himself at the end of a defense-splitting pass but his shot at the near post was palmed away by Arindam. Hormipam’s header off a corner kick struck the woodwork in the added minute of the second half as Kerala Blasters’ search for their third goal bore no fruits.
With the win, Kerala Blasters find themselves one point ahead of fourth-placed ATK Mohun Bagan as they prepare to lock horns with East Bengal on Friday. With only four points in their bag from 16 matches, NorthEast United have earned themselves the tag of a perennial punching bag. They will lock horns with Jamshedpur on Saturday in a bid to change their fortunes.