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All eyes on 37-year-old Ogbeche as Hyderabad goal machine faces old club Blasters

A big part of Hyderabad FC's rampant run is down to the form of Ogbeche who arrived at the start of the season.

Published: 22nd February 2022 09:54 PM  |   Last Updated: 22nd February 2022 10:02 PM   |  A+A-

Nigerian striker Bartholomew Ogbeche

Nigerian striker Bartholomew Ogbeche (Photo | PTI)

Express News Service

KOCHI: One of the biggest narratives, when Kerala Blasters take on Hyderabad FC on Wednesday, will be about 37-year-old Bartholomew Ogbeche.

A former Blasters man, the veteran striker is tearing up the ISL with a league-leading sixteen goals while driving Hyderabad's title charge.

The Nigerian, who was once the darling of the Blasters' faithful, could now stand in the team's way of qualifying for the playoffs.

The Blasters are precariously placed at fifth in the table and can ill-afford any slip-ups. Ivan Vukomanovic's side come into the game on the back of a deflating 2-2 draw against ATK Mohun Bagan where they conceded an injury-time equaliser.

Hyderabad is on a run of five wins from their last six games which sees them sit pretty at the top of the table and with that kind of run, it is easy to see why they would look to cement their place in the top four and maybe even gun for firt place.

A big part of their rampant run is down to the form of Ogbeche who arrived at the start of the season.

After moving from Mumbai City, Ogbeche has arguably exceeded expectations with his red-hot scoring form. The Blasters management could be forgiven for regretting their decision to part with the Nigerian who has sixteen goals from sixteen games so far.

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Then again the foreign imports at Blasters this season have impressed. Alvaro Vazquez has five goals to his name and Jorge Pereyra Diaz has four. For Blasters, goals have come from various quarters with even the likes of Sahal Abdul Samad and Adrian Luna chipping in with four goals.

But Ogbeche has managed to nearly outscore all of them combined to propel Hyderabad above the chasing pack.

During Ogbeche's time at Blasters in the 2019-20 season, he scored an impressive fifteen goals. Come next season, Blasters went on a massive squad overhaul that saw the arrival of the likes of Jordan Murray and Gary Hooper as Ogbeche moved to Mumbai.

This season, Blasters has another new-look frontline and while the forwards since Ogbeche have impressed in their own right, none has been able to match the goalscoring exploits of the towering centre-forward who continues to light up the league.

Without singling out the forward, Vukomanovic admitted that his outfit is against one of the best teams in the league.

"They are one of the best teams in the league. They are top of the table for a reason. They work with consistency and a process. They deserve to be on the top of the table. I am hoping we will be concentrated. Because against one of the best teams in the league you have to be concentrated for ninety-five minutes. You have to be focused, organised and try to use their weak points. It’s a game with the stake every football player likes to play," said Vukomanovic ahead of the game.

One can only imagine where Blasters would be right now with Ogbeche leading their charge. On Wednesday, he could come back to haunt his old side in their quest to return to the semifinals since 2016.

Hyderabad head coach Manuel Marquez does not want any let-up in the intensity with qualification in touching distance.

"If we win this game, we are mathematically in the top-four because Mumbai City FC and Kerala Blasters FC have to play between themselves. If we win tomorrow, we are in the top four 100%. For that reason, it is very important," said Marquez.



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