Kerala Blasters pumped in two goals in the space of two minutes in the first half to thrash Chennaiyin FC 3-0 in the first leg of the first semifinal of the Hero Indian Super League football tournament on Saturday.
Cheered by over 60,000 crowd at the Jawaharlal Stadium, Kerala, who barely scrapped through to the semifinals as the fourth-placed team in the league phase, turned the form book into its head to outplay the Chennai side.
Ishfaq Ahmed (27th minute), captain Iain Hume (29th) and Sushanth Mathew (90+4) got the goals for Kerala, with their team co-owner and cricket icon Sachin Tendulkar watching the match at the stands. The last goal was especially a treat when Sushant tricked his marker and sent a curling left-footer from about 30 yards out.
Kerala, the least attacking side among the eight teams in the tournament with just nine goals from 14 league games, found the target when it mattered the most. They relied on their defensive solidity in the initial few minutes before their forwards delivered the goals.
Both teams started attacking from the word go but it was the home side who got the breakthrough with two quick goals. Chennaiyin FC too had their chances in the first half but Jeje Lalpekhlua and Balwant Singh lacked finesse in the finishing touch.
Sandy Nandi started at the Chennaiyin goal as manager-cum-goalie David James was banned from the sidelines in the last match. Tournament’s highest goal scorer Elano Blumer of Brazil returned for Chennaiyin after an injury break but he largely disappointed and was replaced by Bruno Pelissari in the 52nd minute.
The packed crowd at the stadium was brought onto their feet in the 26th minute when Jamie McAllister headed the ball home only to be ruled off-side.
But, the home supporters did not have to wait for long as in the next minute Ishfaq sent a rasping shot from inside the Chennaiyin box after being sent in the clear by Victor Herrero Forcada.
Two minutes later, Kerala doubled their lead with Hume’s first-time shot from a Stephen Pearson build-up found the Chennaiyin net.
Chennaiyin pressed hard in the second session but Kerala defence stood tall and the home side added another goal through Mathew in the injury added time to emerge 3-0 winners.
The second leg of the semifinals will be played in Chennai on December 16.