KOCHI: Such is the nature of sport that hope springs eternal. Even when the prospects of progression in a tough competition depends on the performance of others, like in the case of the bottom-placed Kerala Blasters FC. “We still have great hope,” says Terry Phelan, the KBFC head coach.
But for that hope to transform into reality, the Blasters need to summon all their strength and execute successfully what little is in their hands — win their two remaining matches with decent margins.
Waiting in ambush, though, will be second-placed FC Goa, who can assure themselves of a place in the semifinals with a win. Clinging on by the proverbial skin of their teeth, the Blasters have no choice but to go for the jugular against a team coached by Brazilian maestro Zico, who swears by attack.
Therein lies the big danger for Phelan and his boys, the threat of a skillful opposition taking advantage of any space that they may leave in their defensive third while pushing forward. As their coach admitted, the Blasters — having managed 18 goals so far against an abysmally low nine while making the last four in the inaugural edition — have been undone by “silly goals”.
“It’s been disappointing. To win games, you have to score goals and not concede silly goals. We have been creating some wonderful chances but not been able to put the ball into the back of the net. It’s a catch-22. It’s been just that little lapse in concentration, naivety. If we won’t go forward and won’t enjoy playing football, we won’t score goals like we have been doing,” said Phelan.
Affected as they are by a series of injuries, that have forced the likes of marquee player Carlos Marchena, influential attacker Sanchez Watt and burly defender Marcus Williams to return home, the Blasters will look to their remaining international stars like Josue Currias, Joao Coimbra and Victor Forcada to nullify the creative powers of dynamic Goan midfielders Leonardo Maura and Jofre Gonzalez, who have been so instrumental in the 21 goals scored by the Gaurs. It will also be an interesting tussle between the two sets of attack and defence. While KBFC strikers Antonio German and Chris Dagnall have struck five times each, they will be up against a veritable defensive wall in the form of Brazilian World Cup winner Lucio and Frenchman Gregory Arnolin.
Goa are not taking the Blasters lightly either, fully seized of the fact that any slip up in the last two games could see them finish out of the top four. “We have not qualified as yet. Kerala played a great game against us in the first phase and we cannot underestimate them.,” said assistant coach Fernando Vannucci.
Delhi Enter Semis
Guwahati: Brazilian winger Gustavo Dos Santos’ late strike enabled Delhi Dynamos to pip North East United 2-1 en route their semi-final qualification in the ISL.Delhi, thus, became the second team after Atletico de Kolkata to qualify for the last four stage with 21 points from 12 games. They still have two league matches left after this.