This was Kerala Blasters’ third win of the ongoing 2020-21 ISL season.
In what was a terrific comeback, Kibu Vicuna and his Kerala Blasters side snatched a last-minute win from arch-rivals Bengaluru FC in the Indian Super League (ISL) on Wednesday. It was the Blues who took an early lead through Cleiton Silva, as he scored with a well-struck volley in the 23rd minute.
The score at half-time read 1-0 in favour of the former league champions before the Yellow Army launched their fightback. At first, it was Lalthathanga Khawlhring who took advantage of the confusion in the BFC box to net a 73rd-minute equalizer. This was followed by Rahul KP’s brilliant counter-attack goal four minutes into injury-time. After the final whistle, Blasters head coach Vicuna took part in the press conference where he shared his thoughts on the win.
Attitude of players
The Blasters have repeatedly shown their resilience this season, with the players not giving up on matches till the final whistle is blown. “I think this (the attitude) is an important part of the team,” Kibu Vicuna said.
He further added, “The attitude and commitment of the players are very important factors. In the last three games, we showed that on the pitch and got the results for it. But, things were a bit different today because we were playing against Bengaluru FC, who not only have very good players but also took the lead early on in the first half. To our team’s credit, they came back and now we are very happy because we got the three points.”
The Kochi outfit played with a different defensive setup against BFC, with Jessel Carneiro, Nishu Kumar and Bakary Kone staying out of the starting XI, while Sandeep Singh started as the right-back instead of his usual role as a central defender. Jeakson Singh partnered Costa Nhamoinesu, while Denechandra Meitei returned to the lineup after a fairly long gap. When asked about these changes, the tactician explained that there were a few ‘tactical reasons’ behind them.
“Tactical reasons. Because we think about the opponents and their possibilities when we select the lineup. I am happy with the performance of everyone who was given a chance out there tonight. Denechandra had not played much so far, but he did well and so did Jeakson in central defence. He showed that he can play as both a centre-back and a midfielder. He has adapted well to the strategy of playing behind and his height gives him a solid advantage when defending aerial balls.
“Sandeep also had a different role tonight, as a full-back. Overall I’m very happy with everyone’s performance,” Vicuna said.
Kibu Vicuna was also asked if there was any special team-talk at half-time because the side looked completely different in the last 45 minutes. However, the 48-year-old seemed to disagree, as he said, “I don’t think it was a completely different team. They were competitive in the first half also. We had many chances, including two for Sahal (Abdul Samad). It was a lack of the final product that prevented us from scoring.
“In the second half, we continued with two strikers, Gary (Hooper) upfront and Rahul to run behind him. We had more ball possession before Bengaluru started tracking back. This led to us playing for longer periods of time in their half and creating more chances,” the coach explained.
Importance of win
“Of course, this is an important win. We now have 13 points, seven of which came from our last three matches. Also, the way in which we came back from behind tells a lot about our attitude. We have a team that believe they can get more points this season,” the former Mohun Bagan coach stated on the importance of this win. He was also quick to remind everyone that there is no room for complacency, as another match is coming up in just a few days.
“We have to keep going. We will be trying our best to recover our players because we have another game in just three days.”
Star striker Jordan Murray was subbed off at half-time, when the Kochi-based team were trailing by a goal. After the game, Kibu Vicuna shed light on the change, as he said, “Jordan had been facing some problems since the last game. He could not continue in the second half tonight.
“We had to continue with two strikers, so we played Gary upfront and Rahul behind him. Puitea (Khawlhring) also played a good game in attack. He met my expectations tonight and his performance was one of the reasons why we won. As I said, we are very happy with everyone in the team,” he signed off.