In the nineteenth match of the Indian Super League 2021-22, Kerala Blasters FC faced Odisha FC at the Tilak Maidan, Goa. Blasters registered their first victory after 319 days as they defeated Odisha 2-1.
Ivan's team had a great start in the game. His tactics put Odisha under immense pressure but Kerala was lacking the final delivery. The first half ended without any goals. Although Odisha started the second half brightly, a brilliant counterattack from Kerala saw them take the lead. It was Vazquez who scored the opening goal. A few minutes later another counter from Kerala saw Prasanth doubling Kerala's lead. Debutant Nikhil pulled one back for Odisha in the final minutes.
The exciting match had many brilliant moments and here at The Bridge, we look at the top 5 talking points of the match.
Kerala's counter-pressing took Odisha by surprise
Kerala Blasters came out in the match with a clear strategy to stop Odisha's build-up. They chose to imply the counter-press and from the start, they executed it effectively. Kerala set the tone of the match and put great pressure on the Odisha centre backs. WIth Keralas' pressing working well, Odisha had no other chance than to go long. With Leskovic and Sipovic contesting for the aerial deliveries Kerala was making sure that Odisha forwards doesn't get the ball in the right areas.
With this aggressive gameplay, Vukomanivic's team stopped Odisha for the larger part of the game. Additionally, they won many balls in dangerous areas and by using the pace of their wingers and forwards they launched dangerous counter-attacks. Overall the effective counter-pressing startled the Odisha team and helped the Blasters to get their first win.
Victor Rodas' injury can be costly for Odisha
Victor Rodas is Odisha's leader in the back. The Spaniard holds the Odisha defence together. Although Kerala applied great pressure from the first minute, Odisha was holding their own. A quick counter from Kerala gave them their first goal. If it wasn't enough, Odisha had to sub out Victor Rodas who suffered an injury. WIth Rodas gone, it opened up for Kerala and they cut the Odisha defence easily.
His absence was hurting Odisha and it was clearly visible. Although the injury of Rodas is unknown, if he has to sit out in future matches, it will make Odisha's defence vulnerable.
Adrian Luna's big performance
Adrian Luna has been Kerala's best performer throughout the season. But today he delivered his best performance in the yellow shirt. The Uruguayan was Kerala's biggest creative outlet on the night. He assisted both the goals and created many more chances. He played an important role in the Kerala setup.
Luna put on a great shift in the match. The tireless attacking midfielder put great pressure on the Odisha centre backs and forced them to go long. He also tracked back to help his defence. His brilliant performance earned him the hero of the match.
Nikhil's late burst can be Odisha's hope
Just before the start of the match, Javi Hernandez was announced as ISL hero of the month of November. But when Kiko Ramirez subbed in a certain 20-year-old Nikhil Raj in Javi's place while trailing 2-0, it raised many eyebrows. The former Indian Arrows player kept his manager's trust showcased his talent.
He took the advantage of Gill's mistake and pulled one back in his debut for the Kalinga Warriors and gave his team a slight glimmer of hope. Although Odisha couldn't score another one, the debutant's short burst will be a positive note for them.
Alvaro Vazquez showed his class
When Alvaro Vazquez was announced as a Kerala Blasters player, many termed him as probably the best new foreigner of the ISL. But in the last 3 matches, the Spaniard couldn't leave his mark and was not looking anywhere near 100 per cent. Today, it was another story. Vazquez put on a great shift and opened the scoring for the Blasters.
His sprints were opening the Odisha defence. His game sense and positioning were making it tougher for them. While scoring the first goal, he beat the offside trap of Odisha perfectly, went around Kamaljit and put the ball in the net calmly. And all of this can be just a glimpse of his ability. If Blasters wants to qualify for the playoffs, the Spaniard will have to deliver performances this type of performance consistently.