The Southerners mounted a late comeback riding on Deependra Singh Negi’s heroics.  

Kerala Blasters FC came from behind to edge Delhi Dynamos FC 2 – 1 in Hero Indian Super League (ISL) 2017-18 at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Kochi on Saturday. Debutant Deependra Negi scored with his first touch in Hero ISL and Iain Hume converted a spot-kick after the Lions had taken the lead through Kalu Uche’s penalty. The win propelled last year’s finalists to the fifth spot in the table and addressing the media during the post-match press conference was their head coach David James.

James explained what made him include Negi in the team, before going on to praise the 19-year-old. “We had to make some changes,” he said. “It was quite literally at the eleventh hour. We knew what the task was at hand and we went about the job. It was a performance by a group of players who don’t give up. He came in and looked like a natural in that position. We weren’t getting the ball forward, he came in scored the first goal of the season, so well-done Negi!”

The 47-year-old highlighted the factors that led his team to a win after trailing at half-time. “The formation is one thing and the performance is another,” James stated. “We started very well; it was one of our best starts. But then we went a goal down and at half-time we knew that we had to win. The spirit inside the dressing room is top drawer. Talk about three points for us; it’s all in the mind.”

James went on to speak in glowing terms about the transfer window that was introduced in the league. “The ISL is in a major transition period,” he inferred. “It’s the first time we’ve had the transfer window. Of course, we’re looking at players at other clubs. If our players become desirable to other clubs, we enter into a traditional transfer situation which I think is healthy for Indian football.”

The former Liverpool custodian also spoke highly of all the members in his squad. “I’ve got confidence in all my players- Indian or foreign,” James remarked. “Some of them are not playing because of injuries. I’m not even thinking if they’re foreign or Indian, if they’re in our squad they’re good enough to play.”

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Delhi Dynamos FC suffered their ninth defeat of the season when they went down 2 – 1 at the hands of Kerala Blasters FC in Hero Indian Super League (ISL) 2017-18 at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Kochi on Saturday. Kalu Uche’s first-half opener from the spot was bettered by Deependra Negi’s goal and Iain Hume’s penalty in the second. The Lions are virtually out of contention for the playoffs and speaking to the media during the post-match press conference was their head coach Miguel Portugal, who highlighted set pieces as being his team’s major downfall throughout the campaign.

“We played well in the first half, but always the set-pieces cause problems for us,” Portugal said. “Today, we conceded from one corner and one penalty. It is the same story in every match. We scored first and played well when the ball was on the ground, but when the ball is in the air from a set piece, we have a big problem. And the other team knows this weakness.”

The 62-year-old further elaborated, “Football is a collective game. But it also depends on the individual mentality and individual action. And in this individual action, we always lost when the ball is in the air. And that is our problem always. When the other team had a foul or a corner, a window opened for the team, because they know our weakness. I am happy for the way the team played. But the set pieces are a big problem.”

Portugal also explained his team’s philosophy when they take the field. “We always play the same way,” the Spaniard stated. “When we have the ball, we try combinations, we try for more possession, we try for better finishing and we try opening up for the wingers. That is how we play football, and that is our philosophy. Our problem, like I told you, is when the ball is in the air.”