KOCHI: It was a surprise that there was a winner in the Kerala Blasters versus Pune City FC encounter. The visitors managed a 1-0 win at Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in one of the dullest matches this season. A fortuitous goal from Marcelinho gave the visitors three points. Billed as a match where both teams would throw the kitchen sink at each other, it was anything but that. After a a lively start with end to end action, Blasters nearly gifted Pune an early goal. Marcelinho was afforded the luxury to run at goal without being marked, but goalkeeper Dheeraj Singh dived low to save his team from an early blow.
It was an unfamiliar sight to see David James’ men playing out from the back. This had not been tried often this season and the home side looked comfortable adopting this style in what was effectively a 4-1-4-1 formation. They did test the leakiest defence in the league early on. Slavisa Stojanovic muscled his way into the box only to find the side-netting.
He then tried a shot from distance which went wide. While Blasters were working their way through the middle, Pune began to stretch them from the flanks. Ashique Kuruniyan was giving a hard time to Sandesh Jhingan. The youngster began drawing the defenders towards the flank which opened up space for strikers.
He set up Pune’s goal with one such move. The 21-year-old fed Marcelinho with a perfectly weighted ball and the Brazilian’s strike took a deflection off Anas Edathodika on its way in.That took the sting out of Kerala’s early thrust. They started making sloppy passes while letting Pune take control. The likes of Courage Pekuson, Zakeer Mundampara and Sahal Abdul Samad were one step behind the Pune players.
Kerala looked clueless in the attacking third despite having possession. Seiminlen Doungel and Stojanovic were not able to be the focal point of their attack. Ashique kept running at them while former Blasters man Iain Hume kept the defenders busy.What was worrying for Blasters was how impotent they were in attack. The way the second half got underway, it didn’t look like there were more goals in store. Pekuson, in particular, was guilty of attempting short passes inside the box.
It was evident that Pune wanted to defend their lead. James introduced CK Vineeth in a bid to add firepower up front but that wasn’t working either. Jhingan nearly got the equaliser in the dying minutes when he directed a downward header at goal which was saved at point blank range by custodian Kamaljit Singh.