Kerala Blasters FC picked up their first points in Hero Indian Super League (Hero ISL) 2020-21 after a 2-2 draw with NorthEast United FC at the GMC Stadium in Bambolim on Thursday. Sergio Cidoncha headed in Kerala’s opener early on and Gary Hooper scored their second just before first half injury time. Kwesi Appiah then netted for NorthEast six minutes into the second period before missing a penalty, while substitute Idrissa Sylla came off the bench to score the equaliser for the Highlanders in the 90th minute.
Kerala raced into the lead with just five minutes on the clock. Seityasen Singh was the man who provided the assist courtesy of a delightful set-piece from the right that Cidoncha headed into the back of the net to make it 1-0 for the Blasters.
The Blasters could have extended their lead in the 23rd minute after NorthEast conceded possession in their own half to Hooper. The English striker carried the ball up field and exchanged a smart one-two with Cidoncha to go through on goal before blazing his effort over the crossbar when it seemed easier to score than miss.
Ashutosh Mehta then found himself with a decent sight of goal on the half hour mark. The NorthEast defender, though, couldn’t keep his shot on target from a difficult angle to the relief of the Kerala players. Khassa Camara also tried his luck from outside the box a few minutes later but his shot was deflected behind for a corner.
Kerala eventually doubled their lead on the brink of halftime after Rakesh Pradhan was adjudged to have mistimed a tackle in the box. NorthEast’s Dylan Fox had done well previously to clear two headers from a corner that were on target.
However, Pradhan’s tackle on Lalthathanga Khawlhring, who brought the ball back into NorthEast’s box after the corner, resulted in penalty. Hooper stepped up to take the penalty and struck the ball straight down the middle to make amends for his earlier miss and give Kerala a 2-0 lead at the break.
The Highlanders began the second period positively and reduced the deficit six minutes into the half. Appiah, who scored the winner in NorthEast’s opening game of the season, was in the right place at the right time to bundle in a corner that found its way to him unopposed inside the six-yard box.
Appiah could have restored parity for NorthEast in the 66th minute after Jessel Carneiro had given away a penalty. Unfortunately for the Highlanders, Appiah went for power and struck his spot kick on to the crossbar as Kerala kept their lead intact.
Both sides proceeded to make plenty of substitutions over the next 15 minutes, which took the sting out of the contest slightly. Substitute Sylla did have a chance to score a leveller for NorthEast, but he ended up heading a long ball over the crossbar in the 83rd minute.
NorthEast continued to toil in search of an equaliser, however, Kerala kept their shape and concentration to make it difficult for the Highlanders to create any proper chances. The Blasters’ resistance, though, was finally broken in the final minute of normal time.
The goal came through Sylla, who made up for his earlier miss in style. After controlling a long ball with his chest to set it up nicely for a first-time finish, the Guinean striker unleashed a powerful shot with his left foot to make it all square on the night and secure a hard-earned point for his team.
ISL Media Release