Kerala Blasters FC notched only its second win of the Indian Super League season after a comprehensive 3-0 win over rivals Chennaiyin FC at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Kochi.
Matej Poplatnik scored a brace (23rd and 55th minutes) to put Kerala Blasters in the driving seat and young midfielder Sahal Abdul Samad finished things off in the 71st minute to score his first ever ISL goal and end his team’s 14-game winless run.
On the other hand, Chennaiyin saw it nightmare season continue after their 12th loss. They are rooted to the bottom spot with eight points from 16 games, while Kerala have climbed to the eighth spot.
The visitors never really got going and were on the backfoot right from the start. Chennaiyin custodian Karanjit Singh was called into action twice early in the game as Kerala imposed themselves.
Slavisa Stojanovic’s shot from the edge of the box was saved by Karanjit and he had to be alert to block the follow-up effort from Poplatnik as well. But Kerala did make the early dominance count by taking the lead in the 23rd minute.
Courage Pekuson’s low cross into the box could only be deflected towards Poplatnik by Karanjit and the striker headed home into an empty net. John Gregory’s side could not gain a foothold into the match and looked woefully out of rhythm .As the half wore on, Kerala could have doubled their lead as Karanjit was forced into two fine saves from Pekuson and Seiminlen Doungel’s efforts.
The story remained pretty much the same in the second half as well and the second goal came 10 minutes later.
Len Doungel initiated a quick counter-attack and fed Sahal down the right wing. The midfielder squared a pass into the box which was not dealt with by the Chennaiyin defenders. Stojanovic got to it and found Poplatnik who lashed a shot home. That goal was a blow Chennaiyin FC never recovered from.
It did not help that Christopher Herd, who was injured in the build-up to Kerala’s goal, had to be substituted. The home team continued to call the shots and soon got the third in the 71st minute.
Again, Samad started the attack with a run from inside his own half. The Chenanaiyin defenders could not clear the ball after Samad’s attempted one-two with Doungel did not come off. Sahal carried on his run to latch on to the loose ball and lift a finish over the onrushing Karanjit.
Chennaiyin did push forward a bit to notch a consolation goal but Kerala saw them off with consummate ease to get a home win after a long time.