Kerala Blasters’ performance against Mumbai City, especially in the first half, left a lot to be desired…
When Kerala Blasters usually put up a fight in the second half of one of their games, the story and the discussions surrounding their performance are nearly always about a fightback.
But when it keeps happening, it is time to talk about why they end up in such situations in the first place.
On Saturday, Blasters got off to a disastrous start against Mumbai City who were second on the league table before the game had kicked off. Adam Le Fondre dispatched a penalty conceded by Costa Nhamoinesu in the third minute before Hugo Boumous waltzed past the defence to latch onto a free-kick from his own half by Ahmed Jahouh and slot home in style eight minutes later.
Within the first 15 minutes, the Yellow Army were two goals down and they looked clueless about getting back into the game. Sergio Lobera’s Mumbai City, who have comfortably dominated possession in all their games this season, needed no invite to stamp their authority in the game. There were a few delightful touches on display for the viewers, but mostly from the men in blue.
Blasters were really bad in the first half. There are no excuses for anybody involved to start a football match in the manner they did. No amount of spirit or fight that the team showed in the second half will undo the serious damage that was already done in the first 45 minutes.
Sergio Lobera enjoys an excellent win record against Blasters during his time with Goa and the Yellows’ last win against Mumbai came over two years ago. As a result, there were no huge expectations for an easy win, especially this season wherein the City Football Group-owned team is stacked with quality and are doing well.
However, the defending for the two goals was comical. Vicuna reinstated skipper Costa in the centre of the defence but altered his preferred foreign centre-back partnership to give Sandeep Singh a start. Costa brought down Boumous within minutes after kick-off and the striker Adam le Fondre who was on five goals for the season accepted a special invitation to add one more to his tally.
The entire backline switched off when Ahmed Jahouh fed Boumous in behind the defence for the second goal. There was no one tracking the midfielder’s – one of the best players in the team – run into the box nor anyone close to the player to challenge him for the ball. Boumous made it look so easy when he caressed the ball past a hapless Albino Gomes to open his account for the season,
Although the short pre-season and the pandemic have forced teams to rotate their squads more often this season, a quick analysis of Vicuna’s starting lineups tells you that he is yet to figure out his best lineup. Annoying niggles picked up by players at times over the last two months have also contributed in hampering the implementation of the coach’s tried and tested philosophy into the squad.
It was an improved display from Vicuna’s men after the break but that is the intensity that is expected of them right from the off. Also, it was also a case of Mumbai taking their feet off the gas after taking a two-goal lead.
The referee’s decisions were debatable at times, Sahal threatened to score more than once, Jordan Murray looked a much more useful striker than Gary Hooper for the second game in a row and Albino Gomes once again proved that he can be trusted with spot-kicks and reflex saves.
From the supporters’ point of view, it makes sense to celebrate these positive takeaways from the game. However, as a club aiming for the playoffs and hungry for silverware, Kerala Blasters require fewer ‘spirited fightbacks’ and more ‘easy wins’. It is about time they demanded more and stopped settling for less.