Kerala Blasters qualify for final by restricting Jamshedpur to a 1-1 stalemate

Kerala Blasters has qualified for their third ISL final appearance

Kerala Blasters qualified for the final as they held Jamshedpur to a 1-1 stalemate in the second leg of ‘Semi-Final 1’ of the 2021-22 Indian Super League season. Adrian Luna scored the opener for the Tuskers, whilst Pronay Halder’s strike restored parity in the match.

The Blasters head coach Ivan Vukomanovic made two changes to the team that won 1-0 in the first leg tie of this semi-final. Sahal Abdul Samad made way for Nishu Kumar owing to a hamstring injury whereas Sanjeev Stalin was replaced by Sandeep Singh.

On the other hand, Jamshedpur head coach Owen Coyle also made a couple of tweaks to his starting XI. Injured winger Seimenlen Doungel was replaced by Ishan Pandita, while a fit-again Laldinliana Renthlei replaced PC Laldinpuia in the right-back position.

Despite carrying a one-goal advantage from the first leg tie, the Tuskers started the game on the front foot and had two glorious opportunities of opening the scoresheet inside the first six minutes of the match.

In the 2nd minute, Jorge Pereyra Diaz went to close down a red shirt near the halfway line and the deflected ball landed perfectly for a completely unmarked Alvaro Vazquez, whose chipped shot was not on target.

The Spanish striker almost redeemed his miss by playing a defense splitting through ball for Ayush Adhikari four minutes later, but the Jamshedpur custodian TP Rehenesh came out in time to gather the pass.

In the 10th minute, Diaz found the back of the strike with a venomous strike but his ecstasy soon turned into disbelief as the linesman raised his flag for offside. Thankfully for the Tuskers, all of these missed opportunities did not come back to haunt them as the deadline was finally broken by Luna in the 18th minute.

Vazquez found the Uruguayan attacker with a pass on the left flank, and Luna’s exquisite strike had the perfect amalgamation of curve and direction to sneak in at the bottom right corner, beating an outstretched Rehenesh.

Jamshedpur’s first major chance came in the 35th minute when a Greg Stewart freekick was flicked by Pandita for Daniel Chima Chukwu. The Nigerian marksman made no mistake in scoring from a hand-shaking distance, and whilst the goal was initially awarded, the linesman changed his mind after long deliberation and chalked it off for offside. Replays showed that it was the right call was Chukwu was quite a way ahead of the last Kerala Blasters defender.

The Red Miners needed a goal soon in the second half and they did get this wish, with Pronay netted the equalizer in the 50th minute. A perfectly weighted corner by Stewart was headed towards the net by Chukwu, and while his initial effort was blocked, the rebound fell to Pronay who calmly slotted the ball past Prabhsukhan Gill in the Tuskers’ goal.

Pronay Halder equalized for Jamshedpur in the 50th minute

Pronay Halder equalized for Jamshedpur in the 50th minute

Vukomanovic’s team let go of a gilt-edged chance of getting their lead back barely a minute later, with Vazquez being the guilty party yet again. Like the chance in the 2nd minute, a ball from the midfield somehow found the Spaniard in acres to space with only Rehenesh to beat, and while his effort was on target this time out, it was a ‘meek and timid’ shot aimed straight at the goalkeeper.

Coyle’s men got a freekick from a dangerous position in the 66th minute, but emulating Vazquez, Stewart too aimed his shot straight at the custodian. His delivery was much better from a free-kick in the 79th minute when he picked out an unmarked Pandita, but the youngster failed to find the back of the net.

With this win, Kerala Blasters have confirmed their third appearance in the final and will lock horns with either Hyderabad or ATK Mohun Bagan on Sunday at the Fatorda Stadium. Having lost their previous two finals, the Tuskers will be determined to leave no stone unturned this time around.