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Local flavour Talk Of Town As Vineeth, Anto Combine For Blasters First Win

Friday, 15 December 2017|Vineeth Krishnan

The Kerala Blasters finally registered their first win of the season, seeing off a hard-working Northeast United FC 1-0 at the Jawaharlal Nehru International Stadium on Friday. CK Vineeth got the only goal of the game in the first half with the hosts getting a further boost when opposition goalkeeper TP Rehenesh was sent off just before the break.

With Dimitar Berbatov out injured, Rene Meulensteen opted to start Wes Brown in a defensive midfield role, alongside Siam Hanghal who replaced Arata Izumi. Vineeth, who had missed the previous tie due to suspension, returned in place of Loken Meitei.

The game needed an early goal and when it came it was a thing of beauty. An inch-perfect ball from the right, a forward showing the ambition and ability to get in between the defenders and connecting with a bullet header, this was the stuff every one of the 33,868 odd in the ground had come to see. What made it all the more sweet was that two of the Blasters’ local lads had combined to get the 24th minute goal with Rino Anto’s cross being tucked away by a diving Vineeth.

But it wasn’t a game for all Malayali players to remember. Northeast United’s keeper Rehenesh was sent off in the 43rd minute, further swinging the game in favor of the hosts. Rehenesh can count himself a tad unlucky as while he did bring Markos Sifneos just outside the box, centre back Sambinha had got around on the cover. The away team manager Joao de Deus then took off the lively Holicharan Narzary to bring on reserve keeper Ravi Kumar, further depleting Northeast’s attacking thrust.

The Blasters had plenty of promising situations early in the second half to put the game to bed. The best of those feel to marauding left back Lalruatthara in the 57th minute, who was put through one-on-one with the keeper with a delightful reverse ball by Courage Pekuson. The Mizoram youngster, naturally right footed but playing on the left, got a shot off with his favored foot, only to hit the inside of the near goalpost.

As time edged on and the second goal continued to elude the man-up Blasters, the anxiety among the home crowd grew. There were audible chants to bring on Iain Hume, the Canadian striker who remains extremely well loved among the fan base. The nerves of the crowd seemed to get to the players as well with Sifneos taking exception to Martin Pena’s repeated kicks on the back of Pekuson’s legs, kicking off a scuffle in front of the away dugout that got team staff members and most players on both sides involved. 

And in the 71st minute, it seemed as though lightning would indeed strike twice as the Highlanders put together a move reminiscent of the way Mumbai FC got their equalizer in the previous home match here, moving swiftly down the right wing after a mistake by Wes Brown. This time though, the excellent Rino was able to put in a last ditch tackle on Danilo to save the day.

 The Brazilian striker would have one more chance to make the Blasters rue their profligate finishing, flicking on Odair Fortes’ 87th minute corner narrowly wide of Paul Rachubka’s far post. In the end that was as close as the visitors would get, much to the palpable relief of everyone inside the stadium, especially those in the home dugout.

Three points and a swap of league positions with their opponents was the benefit on the night for the ‘manjappada’ who now have 6 points from 5 games. Northeast United stay on 4 points from 5 games but now in eight in the league table. The Blasters take on Chennayin FC in the first Southern derby a week from now while Northeast are in action two days earlier, hosting Mumbai City FC in Guwahati on Wednesday.