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ISL 2016 Season Review: Kerala Blasters

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The Blasters once again fell short at the final hurdle losing to Atletico de Kolkata, but after a remarkable campaign full of ups and downs they have much to be proud about...

Kerala Blasters became the first team to reach the Indian Super League Finals twice without lifting the title this season when they lost 1-0 to Atletico de Kolkata at Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium. With the Final being played in Kochi, many expected them to hand their loyal fans yet another reason to celebrate by dethroning fierce rivals Chennaiyin.

However, having played 120 minutes and travelled 2600 miles just a few days before the showpiece, they struggled against Atletico de Kolkata on their own turf; they lost 4-3 on penalties after the match ended 1-1 in regulation and extra-time despite vanquishing Delhi Dynamos by the same means in the semi-finals.

                                 

 Fact Sheet for ISL Season 3


 Season Finish: Finalists

 Games Played: 17

Won : 7

Lost : 6

Drawn : 4

Win %: 41.18% 

   GF: 13

GA: 15

 

Pre-Season

 

Blasters travelled to Thailand for their pre-season training. Taking on former Thai League champions Big Bang Chula United in the opening game, they registered a morale-boosting 2-1 win, which was followed by a stalemate with Bangkok United. In their third and final friendly game in Thailand, they managed a 1-0 victory over Phrae United and BEC Tero XI. The short training in Thailand certainly proved decisive in the team’s progress in the ISL as it helped the new manager know his team better.

 

Top 3 Players

 

CK Vineeth
Kervens Belfort
Cedric Hengbart

Blasters formed arguably the most balanced team in the ISL, with every player’s contribution being vital. However, one player stood out; CK Vineeth missed the first few games thanks to his AFC Cup duties with I-League champions Bengaluru FC. Once he returned to the squad, he turned things around for the Kochi team as they reached the knockout stages after being pencilled in to only achieve a bottom half finish in the first few matchdays. Garnering 7.57 ratings from the official ISL site, he was the 14th best player in the competition.

 

 

Whilst Blasters’ defense earned plaudits for their performance, their attack remained underappreciated for the better part of the tournament. However, Haiti international Kervens Belfort proved pivotal to Blasters’ progress as he caused many troubles to the opposition defense every time he started. One can even say he was he was one of the reasons for behind Chennaiyin’s meltdown as he managed to agitate their gaffer Marco Materazzi in addition to engineering a one-game ban for the Italian legend.

 

 

Cedric Hengbart marshaled the defense for the Blasters. With the Indian players stealing the limelight, he produced superb performances consistently without many spectators noticing. Starting all 17 games for Blasters, he proved a crucial part of the team, alongside the rest of the back four. At 36, the French centre-back may not return to Kochi next season, but he has already written himself into Kerala’s football folklore by being a highly reliable defender in a season that saw them reach the Final.

 

Games: 9
Goals: 5
Assists: 1
Shots on Target: 12
Games: 15
Goals: 3
Assists: 1
Shots on Target: 11


Games:
17
Tackles: 41
Aerial Duels Won: 45
Interceptions: 30

 

Flop of the Season 


Michael Chopra:
Whilst youngsters excelled in attack, veteran striker Michael Chopra largely underperformed as he managed a rating of only 6.63 from the official ISL site. Scoring just a single goal in ten appearances, the former Premier League forward was demoted to the bench toward the later stages of the tournament as he managed just six minutes in the final seven games for the club. At 33, he will likely not return to the ISL next year despite his eagerness to represent the Indian national team in the future.

 

Tato's Performance in ISL 2016 

Matches : 10

Goals :1

Assist: 0

Shots on Target: 5

Successful passes: 109

 

Top 3 Performances

 

  1.   Kerala Blasters 3-1 Chennaiyin FC ( Match Report and Highlights) 



  2. Kerala Blasters 1-0 Delhi Dynamos (Match Report and Highlights)




  3. FC Goa 1-2 Kerala Blasters (Match Report and Highlights)

 

 

Manager's Report Card 

 

English managerial stalwart Steve Coppell got off to a sluggish start. However, after the return of CK Vineeth, he tinkered the starting eleven; eventually, his personnel began producing positive results as they finished second despite being a bottom half club for the better part of the season.

The former Leicester City manager admitted in late October that he had not devised an ideology for the team as he hardly knew the strengths and weaknesses of his players then; he even stated that ISL teams signed players much before they signed managers. In little time, he had managed to devise a winning strategy that brought Blasters inches away from the title. Accordingly, Sachin Tendulkar and Co. will be desperate to lure him to the Malabar coast next season.

 

Lessons to be learned

 

The Yellow Sea forms arguably the best fan base in the ISL

The Yellow Sea – also known as the Manjapada – reinstated why Kerala deserves its place amongst India’s football capitals such as Kolkata and Goa. With the home games averaging more than 50,000 attendees, the fans set the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium alight on every matchday. Lauded for creating the best atmosphere in the competition, they served as a motivating factor for the players. Earning Materazzi’s praise is no mean feat and the Blasters fans did just that as he reckoned that Indian football needed fans as loyal as the Yellow Sea to reach great heights.

South Indian Derby is the real deal

No other derby in the ISL has proved as fierce as the South Indian Derby that sees the Blasters take on Tamil Nadu team Chennaiyin. The animosity between the fans has seemingly spread to the players as the Marina Arena fixture saw the players of both teams embroil in a tussle after the final whistle.

In the event of the Marina Machans signing more local talents, the South Indian Derby will become even fiercer; however, as things stand, the fixture is definitely one that neutrals and fans of other six teams can always look forward to.

Local players made the difference for Blasters

Blasters yet again proved that they have top notch local players at their disposal. With Sandesh Jhingan, CK Vineeth and Mohamed Rafi all impressing, they banked heavily on their local contingent for results. With only a few ISL outfits boasting reliable local players, Vineeth and Co. justified the outstanding support they garner from the fans.

Although the ISL has often been lambasted for not cultivating local talent, Blasters proved why that very notion is a myth as they played six Kerala-born players at almost every instant. The prominence of local players is definitely something the Malayalam-speaking fans can brag about.

 

Fan View

 

Sanil Sani

 

When you look back at the season we've had, it's been a good one. Started off with two consecutive defeats and after three matches we had only 1 point. Many wrote us off and gave up on us but credit to our manager Steve Coppell on how he organized a settled side with the players who were available to him specially under such a busy schedule. Once the team was settled we started to see positive results. Players began to take their chances and it was reflected in the performances which eventually helped us to climb the table and get into the top four. The players gave a brave fight. Never gave up until the end. Sometimes we need a little bit of luck which we didn't have but I am proud of how each and everyone of them contributed, be it the support staff, players or manager. We fought together always. It was a great feeling supporting you through all the good and bad times. This season I got attached to the team more than ever. Maybe it's because we had some players who we knew for the past three seasons or some of those who returned back to the club after a year of absence.  Season 3 had a lot of similarities to Season 1

Photos © ISL Media

Review by Khel Now Correspondent from Chennai  Praveen R. Paramasivam.

Published: Sun Dec 25, 2016 08:28 PM IST

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