The performance of the Kerala Blasters against Mumbai City, especially in the first half, left something to be desired …
When the Kerala Blasters typically fight in the second half of one of their matches, the story and discussions surrounding their performance are almost always about a retaliation.
But when that continues to happen, it’s time to talk about the reasons they find themselves in such situations in the first place.
On Saturday, Blasters got off to a disastrous start against second-place Mumbai City before the match kick-off. Adam Le Fondre sent a penalty conceded by Costa Nhamoinesu in the third minute before Hugo Boumous passed the defense to catch up with a free kick from his half by Ahmed Jahouh and return home eight minutes later.
In the first 15 minutes, the Yellow Army had a two-goal lead and they seemed helpless to get back into the game. Sergio Lobera’s Mumbai City, who have comfortably dominated possession in all of their games this season, did not need an invitation to mark their authority in the game. There were some delicious touches on display for viewers, but mostly men in blue.
The blasters were really bad in the first half. There is no excuse for anyone involved to start a football game the way they did. No amount of spirit or combat the team exhibited in the second half will repair the serious damage already done in the first 45 minutes.
Sergio Lobera has an excellent record of victories against Blasters during his time in Goa and the Yellows’ last victory against Mumbai dates back two years. As a result, there weren’t great expectations for an easy win, especially this season when the team belonging to City Football Group is full of quality and doing well.
However, the defense of both goals was comedic. Vicuna has returned skipper Costa to the center of defense but changed his preferred foreign center-back partnership to give Sandeep Singh a start. Costa knocked down Boumous minutes after kick-off and forward Adam le Fondre, who had five goals for the season, accepted a special invite to add one more to his tally.
The whole back line died out when Ahmed Jahouh fed Boumous behind the defense for the second goal. There was no one following the midfielder – one of the team’s best players – running into the box, nor anyone close to the player to challenge him for the ball. Boumous made things so easy when he stroked the ball in front of hapless Albino Gomes to open his account for the season,
While the short preseason and the pandemic have forced teams to rotate their squads more often this season, a quick analysis of Vicuna’s starting lineups tells you he has yet to find his best lineup. Annoying concerns raised by players at times over the past two months have also helped hamper the implementation of the coach’s proven philosophy in the squad.
It was an improved display from Vicuna’s men after the break, but that’s the intensity that is expected of them from the start. Besides, this was also a case where Mumbai stepped on the accelerator after taking a two-goal lead.
The referee’s decisions were questionable at times, Sahal threatened to score more than once, Jordan Murray looked like a much more useful striker than Gary Hooper for the second game in a row and Albino Gomes once had more proven that he could be trusted with kicks and reflex saves.
From a fan perspective, it makes sense to celebrate these positive lessons from the game. However, as a silver-hungry playoff-targeting club, the Kerala Blasters require less “lively retorts” and more “easy wins”. It is time they demanded more and stopped settling for less.