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Kerala blasts NEUFC

Kerala Blasters FC hauled itself up from the despondency of repeated failures with a spectacular 4-1 win over home favourite NorthEast United FC in a Hero ISL match at the Indira Gandhi Stadium here on Sunday.

The visitor sailed on the fine performance of its all-English attack comprising Antonio German, who scored once, and Chris Dagnall, who scored twice, to realise the big win. Cavin Lobo accounted for the fourth for last year’s runner-up as it posted its first outstation win of the season.

Argentine forward Nicolas Velez scored in injury-time to fetch a consolation goal for NEUFC, which disappointed a capacity home crowd with a poor game.

Getting German in place of the injured Sanchez Watt in the starting line-up proved a big move by the Blasters as he created the first goal seconds after kick-off. This was definitely one of the quickest goals of the tournament as the Kerala side showed both grit and gumption in taking the battle against a charged-up host.

German went deep into the NorthEast territory after playing a one-two with compatriot Dagnall. The suddenness of the attack caught the home defence off guard as the latter chugged up to the goalmouth unchallenged to slot home a measured cross from German.

The Blasters coach Terry Phelan tweaked the line-up that had lost at home in the previous round — against Atletico Kolkata — and made four changes to realign both the attack and defence. Sandesh Jinghan made it to the defence joining captain and Englishman Peter Ramage in the centre allowing Phelan to bolster the midfield by bringing in Spaniard Victor Forcada (Pulga) alongside his compatriot Josu Currias.

With Mehtab Hossain and Cavin Lobo, who replaced Ishfaq Ahmed, getting a free role in the middle of the park Blasters ruled the proceedings with regular forays in the attacking-third.

Hossain’s cleverness doubled the lead for the visitor in the 21st minute. The goal was more about two colleagues — on loan from the Kolkata giant East Bengal — combining effectively as Hossain set a long floater from near the centerline locating an unmarked Cavin Lobo near the NEUFC box.

The latter caught the home defence napping running in unchallenged to score past the hapless T.P. Rehenesh in the NEUFC goal.

The NEUFC coach Cesar Farias strangely broke his successful combination of Argentine Carlos Lopez and Cameroonian Andre Bikey in the central defence. The Venezuelan, who rung in seven changes in the side that beat Chennaiyin FC 2-1 at the latter’s home in the previous round, paid the price of making too many alterations in a winning combination.

The second half did not change the things for the host, which went all-out in search of goals. With Jinghan and Ramage keeping a strong vigil in the Blasters’ box, the NEUFC attackers — Velez, Portuguese World Cupper Simao Sabrosa and later Diomansy Kamara — made abortive bids in their efforts to neutralise the visitors’ lead.

As the host pushed more men into attack, German and Dagnall enjoyed laxity in the opponent’s vigil scoring once each in the 76th and 77th minutes to extinguish the hopes of the host.

The result: NorthEast United FC 1 (Nicolas Velez 90+1) lost to Kerala Blasters 4 (Chris Dagnall 1 & 77, Cavin Lobo 21, Antonio German 76).

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