Hyderabad clinch maiden ISL title by beating Kerala Blasters on penalties courtesy of Kattimani and Tavora’s heroics

Hyderabad won their maiden ISL title in their first-ever final appearance

Hyderabad lifted their first-ever silverware by beating Kerala Blasters 3-1 on penalties in the final of the 2021-22 Indian Super League season. The match ended 1-1 after 120 minutes, where Rahul KP opened the scoring for the Tuskers but a sensational strike by Sahil Tavora restored parity in the game.

Hyderabad head coach Manolo Marquez made a couple of changes to his starting XI following a 1-0 defeat in the second leg of their semi-final tie against ATK Mohun Bagan. Having regained match sharpness, Asish Rai replaced Nim Dorjee Tamang in the right-back position, whilst Javi Siverio made way for Joel Chianese.

Similarly, Kerala Blasters head coach Ivan Vukomanovic also made two changes to the team that drew 1-1 in the second leg of their semi-final clash against Jamshedpur. Jeakson Singh came in for Ayush Adhikari in the middle of the park, whereas owing to his poor show against the Red Miners, Nishu Kumar had to make way for Rahul.

The Tuskers started the match on the front foot, but it was the Nizams who got the first crack at goal when Sauvik Chakrabarti pulled the trigger in the 11th minute. However, his shot was directed straight at the Kerala Blasters custodian Prabhsukhan Gill.

Kerala’s first major opening of the game came in the 39th minute when Adrian Luna floated in a ball inside the box, which Harmanjot Khabra did well to receive and lay off for Alvaro Vazquez, whose venomous shot struck the crossbar and stayed out.

Marquez’s team had a gilt-edged chance of breaking the deadlock seconds before half-time when Rai earned a freekick for the Nizams on the right flank. Mohammad Yasir’s perfectly weighted cross from the setpiece found substitute Siverio completely unmarked but his headed effort was saved by Gill.

Thanks to a solid start to the first half, Hyderabad came out oozing with confidence in the second half and nearly opened the scoring in the 49th minute when skipper Joao Victor went for glory from a long way out. His effort had both pace and direction, but yet again, Gill came to the Tuskers’ rescue.

The Nizams got another glorious opportunity only six minutes later when Rai darted down the right flank before playing a pass for Bartholomew Ogbeche, who failed to keep his shot on target.

The flurry of missed opportunities eventually came back to haunt Marquez’s men, as Rahul scored for Kerala Blasters in the 68th minute. After receiving a pass from Jeakson, the youngster sprinted towards the goal and let go of a shot that was directed straight at Hyderabad custodian Laxmikant Kattimani, but the veteran made an absolute meal of it to make the scoreline 1-0.

The Nizams got a good chance of getting back in the game eight minutes later when Ogbeche earned a freekick just at the edge of the penalty box. The Nigerian marksman himself went on to take the setpiece and though his shot was on target this time around, Gill pulled off yet another sensational save.

The Tuskers got a freekick from a very similar position in the 85th minute, which Luna went up to take. The Uruguayan’s curling shot was going into the top left corner but having made a poor mistake early on, Kattimani redeemed himself by making an impressive save.

Sahil Tavora’s goal turned out to be the turning point of the match

Sahil Tavora’s goal turned out to be the turning point of the match

Thousands of Kerala Blasters fans who flocked the Fatorda Stadium must have started planning post-match celebrations when Tavora delivered an absolute hammer blow in the 88th minute. Substitute Halicharan Narzary floated in a cross from a freekick which was initially cleared out by a player from Vukomanovic’s team, but the ball fell to Tavora whose exemplary strike rifled into the back of the net, giving Gill no chance to get his hand to it.

The first chance in extra-time fell to Hyderabad when Ogbeche went for an acrobatic overhead kick from a long throw, but could not get the right connection on his shot. The Tuskers too came close in the 101st minute when Luna’s cross was flicked towards the goal by Jeakson, but the woodwork came to the Nizams’ rescue for the second time on the night.

The last major opening of the game came in the 110th minute when Siverio sprinted down the left flank before cutting a pass back for Ogbeche, whose shot was cleared at the goalline by Marko Leskovic.

In penalties, Kattimani emerged as Hyderabad’s saviour as he made three saves – off Leskovic, Nishu Kumar, and Jeakson, whereas Ayush Adhikari was the only Kerala Blasters player to convert his penalty. On the other hand, whilst Siverio blasted his penalty way over the crossbar, goals from Victor, Khassa Camara, and Narzary clinched the silverware for Hyderabad. This was the Nizams’ maiden triumph in their first-ever final appearance, whereas the story is rather heartbreaking for the Tuskers, who now have lost three ISL finals.