Kerala Blasters had to make several changes to their starting lineup but had a remarkable victory against Hyderabad…
After more than 540 minutes without a win in the 2020-21 Indian Super League, Kerala Blasters finally managed to finish their run without a win with a convincing 2-0 result against Hyderabad on Sunday.
With key players such as Costa Nhamoinesu, Bakary Kone and Gary Hooper unavailable for selection due to injuries, Kibu Vicuna had a tough job picking the starting line-up for what was a must-see match given the poor start to the season. .
But he succeeded and here is how he did it. The defense that included an inconsistent foreign center-back partnership was replaced by an all-Indian line with Abdul Hakku and Sandip Singh as center-backs.
It was a big risk considering they were both starting a game for the first time this season and in Hakku’s case it was only his seventh start in four seasons due to injury issues. They faced Aridane Santana, but the riskiest move of the season so far away from Vicuna paid off.
Hakku is the one who broke the deadlock in the first half on a precise corner from Facundo Pereyra. He looked rusty a couple of times in the game but had no trouble making his way to the corner in the net in the 29th minute.
Hakku and Sandip managed to withstand the threat posed by the Hyderabad attack, but there were enough warning signs that meant the all-Indian defensive line could be punished against a stronger team.
At the start of the game, only East Bengal had a worse second-half defensive record than Kerala Blasters who conceded eight goals after a restart. But Vicuna seemed to have finally managed to get his side to talk at half-time as his side took control of the game in the second half and denied Hyderabad easy forays into their third defensive end.
Jeakson Singh found the debut hard to come by early in the season, but once again proved his mettle in midfield with a forceful display alongside Vicente Gomez. He scored a late equalizer for his team on his first start, and then produced a stellar show on his second.
On the right flank, Rahul KP was involved in a fantastic duel with Akash Mishra and it was the Keralite who came out on top with his straight runs and quick feet. Facundo Pereyra remained available for an assist and was happy to deliver balls into the box for Jordan Murray who seemed more involved in the last third of a game than Gary Hooper did in all of his games combined.
Sahal Abdul Samad also had a start – again on the left – and he showed why he had to start more often but not on the flanks. He was happy to dribble past defenders, but gave up the ball cheaply and didn’t get the rate of defensive work expected when the team didn’t have the ball.
The next step for Blasters is a big game against league leaders Mumbai City who have been phenomenal across the board. Considering the performance of a new team against Hyderabad, Kibu Vicuna has some decisions to make.