Kerala Blasters edges past arch-rivals Chennaiyin by 2-1  

JLN Stadium witnessed the roaring of their Blasters!

Kerala Blasters staged a phenomenal comeback in Gameweek No. 19 of the 2022-23 Indian Super League to overcome the arch-rivals Chennaiyin by 2-1 on Tuesday. 

Abdenasser El Khayati’s early breakthrough (2’) brought Marina Machans into the lead but the Tuskers eventually ended up on the winning side after two thunderous strikes from Adrian Luna (38′) and Rahul KP (64′). 

The Kochi-based outfit once again turned their home ground into an unbeatable fortress after registering the sixth successive triumph at Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium. 

As a consequence of their previous losing outcome with East Bengal, the Blasters’ gaffer Ivan Vukonamovic was forced to make four changes in his starting XI. The likes of Sahal Abdul Samad and Prabhsukhan Gill made a comeback to the lineup while the Greek-Australian striker Apostolos Giannou could not even make it to the matchday squad. 

On the other hand, the visitors wanted to keep the momentum from their recent high-scoring draw and went on to make only a single change. As the Iranian central defender Vafa Hakhamaneshi replaced Fallou Diagne who was serving a one-match suspension after receiving his fourth yellow card on the previous matchday.

The referee Crystal John commenced the high-profile Southern Derby action with his kick-off whistle at the jam-packed arena of Kochi’s Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium. The Marina Machans donning away all-white colors kick-started the 20th game of this fervour rivalry between two neighboring counterparts with the first kick. 

A zealing atmosphere of Manjappada erupted in the very second minute of the game when the visitors succeeded to convert their first move into an opening goal. The Tuskers failed to trample down a quick counter-attack of Chennaiyin and it was followed by the brilliance of El Khayati who outwitted two opposition defenders to deliver it into the net. The Dutch playmaker Abdenasser El Khayati placed the cherry on top of his 34th birthday cake after bagging the ninth goal of the season.  

Kerala outclassed the opposition defense on several occasions in the initial minutes but lacked a proper finish to the build-up; however, they eventually got the equalizing goal. The Uruguayan playmaker Adrian Luna took the advantage of Anirudh Thapa’s uncleared block and stunned the home crowd with a long-ranging screamer in the 38th minute. 

The first-half action got consummated with the former Blaster Vincy Barretto missing a one-on-one chance at the goal mouth within the stoppage period of two minutes.  

Chennaiyin boss Thomas Brdaric opted for double substitution changes in the 63rd minute and pulled off Petar Sliskovic and Vincy Barretto from the battlefield. The newly arrived Machans Kwame Karikari and Prasanth K were just settling onto the field when the local lad Rahul KP pushed the visitors on backfoot.

The 22-year-old winger slashed in a low steering cross of Adrian Luna into the goal to give the home side a crucial second-half lead. Rahul’s 64th-minute strike resulted in the Kochi-based outfit taking a commanding position in the game and sustaining it till the last minute. 

Chennaiyin completely lost control at this point in the game, kept making blunders in defensive duties and also failed to find a breakthrough during the attacking moves. The scoreline remained unaffected for the rest of the game and the Tuskers joined their supporters Manjappada in Viking Clap celebrations having three points in the bank. 

The midfield was ruled by the Yellow and Blues who completed 389 successful passes at an accuracy rate of 77% and also produced four players with the most number of successful passes in the match. 

Chennaiyin had an incredible statistical record by attempting a whopping total of 18 shots and 5 shots on target but managed to utilize them on the scoresheet throughout the play only once.

The Hero of the Match award was bagged by the Uruguayan magician Adrian Luna who had a direct involvement in both scored goals from the Blasters camp. 

The Tamil Nadu-based club is now focusing on their forthcoming fixture against the East Bengal side at home on Sunday to finally bring an end to their eight-match winless run. Meanwhile, the Tuskers will be featuring in yet another Southern Derby clash having an away game with Bengaluru scheduled for Saturday.