Kerala Blasters avenge previous defeat with a 2-0 win against Mumbai City
Kerala Blasters equalled the points tally of league leaders Goa, thanks to their 2-0 win over Mumbai City in the last match of matchweek 11 of the 2023-24 Indian Super League at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Kochi. Dimitrios Diamantakos and Kwame Peprah scored the two goals for the Tuskers.
Kerala Blasters head coach Ivan Vukomanovic made only one change to the team that defeated Punjab 1-0 as Danish Farooq returned in midfield with Mohammed Azhar making way for him.
On the other hand, Mumbai City coach Petr Kratky was forced to make three changes to his team after four players were red-carded in the 2-1 win against Mohun Bagan Super Giant. Hmingthanmawia, Tiri, and Jayesh Rane came into the side, with Rahul Bheke, Akash Mishra and Greg Stewart suspended for the fixture.
With their opponents missing many key men, the Tuskers expectedly had the better start and their first chance came in the second minute. After intercepting a pass, Rahul KP darted down the right flank before pulling the trigger from a tight angle, but he could not find the target.
The chances kept on falling for Kerala Blasters and it did not take them long to break the deadlock. In the 11th minute, a pass from Naocha Singh found Peprah down the left flank, who superbly wiggled past a few players in blue before finding Diamantakos at the middle of the box with a pass. The Greek striker then followed it up by making a fine turn before slotting his shot home through the legs of Mumbai City goalkeeper Phurba Lachenpa.
In the 18th minute, Danish found a chance when a ball landed at his feet after a corner, but he blasted his shot wide. Mumbai City’s first sight of the goal came in the 22nd minute when Rane saw himself in space outside a box and launched an ambitious attempt. His shot had Sachin Suresh scampering, but the ball unfortunately struck the woodwork.
The midfielder then almost got an assist to his name just four minutes later, when his headed pass looped over all of Kerala Blasters’ backline and found Jorge Pereyra Diaz through on goal, with only Suresh to beat. But the Argentine striker could not score against his former employers as he failed to get any power in the shot.
The next few minutes saw Mumbai City coming into the game, with Rane and Nasser El Khayati trying their luck, but the next big chance once again fell to the Tuskers. In the 45th minute, Naocha received a pass from Peprah and put on the afterburners, before delivering a perfect cross for Rahul. The winger had the entire goal to aim for as he was unchallenged, but he somehow managed to drag his shot wide.
But it ultimately did not matter as the insurance goal eventually came in the fifth minute of additional time. Peprah played a ball to the right flank for Diamantakos, who did well to cut inside on his left foot and find the Ghanaian striker again. Peprah then did the rest by threading his shot past Tiri and Lachenpa to make it 2-0 to the hosts.
The second half started with an early chance for the Islanders when a cross from Bipin Singh found Mehtab Singh inside the box but the defender did not have the accuracy to guide his header on target.
In the 51st minute, youngster Mohammed Aimen tried his luck but got his shot blocked by a player in blue. Danish had yet another chance a minute later, but he was wasteful for the second time.
In the 65th minute, Rahul had a second pop at the goal, but he just was not wearing his goal-scoring boots in this match. Two minutes later, Peprah made a great run down the left flank before launching a cross, which would have found Rahul completely unmarked if not for Lachenpa’s flying fist.
The next few minutes saw Kratky’s team creating a few chances. In the 70th minute, a pass from Pereyra Diaz split open the Kerala Blasters’ defense as it found Lallianzuala Chhangte completely unmarked, but Marko Leskovic came out of nowhere to make a brilliant slide tackle. Ten minutes later, Mehtab got another chance from an El Khayati corner, but he could not score again.
Against a run of play, the Tuskers had a great chance to score their third goal in the 83rd minute. After receiving a lobbed pass from Daisuke Sakai, Peprah twisted and turned to bamboozle Yoell van Nieff, but then blasted his shot high.
But the Islanders did create openings in the dying minutes, all of which went in vain. Vinit Rai and Pereyra Diaz had their attempts blocked, while substitute Ayush Chhikara could have been the unlikely hero when a cross from Mehtab in the 97th minute found him inside the box. However, his header was safely gathered by Suresh.
With this win, Kerala Blasters secure the second spot in the league standings with 23 points from 11 matches. They will now face Mohun Bagan Super Giant on Wednesday while Mumbai City is in the fourth place with 19 points from 10 matches and the Islanders will host Chennaiyin on Thursday.