Kerala Blasters displayed some excellent attacking football last night against Jamshedpur FC. The Tuskers went all guns blazing against Owen Coyle’s side and did everything right except putting the ball in the back of the net. However, if this was any indication of the kind of performances that they are going to dish out for the rest of the Indian Super League (ISL) 2020-21 season, their fans are in for a treat.
The Men of Steel came into this match having not won in four matches and were under the pump. Kibu Vicuna’s men weren’t exempt from pressure either as they started this game with a view towards entering the top 6 with a victory. The momentum was with them having won two of their last four, while the other two were draws. However, the Spaniard sprung a surprise by dropping Rahul KP who had been their star performer in the last few games.
Jamshedpur went with a midfield diamond without the ball and a more stable flat 4-4-2 during attacking transitions. The Blasters responded by stretching the midfield using three centre-backs, with Jessel Carneiro dropping deep alongside Costa Nhamoinesu and Bakary Kone. As a result, they had a spare midfielder during attack who could either run the channels or provide a passing angle between the lines.
Further forward, Gary Hooper did wonderfully well throughout the game to play just behind Jordan Murray and set him off at any given opportunity with a simple through ball. He also dropped deep a number of times to pick the ball up in midfield and drive forward. That is exactly what happened when he managed to hit the post with a dangerous strike just before halftime. The additional man in midfield also meant they could crowd out the opposition defenders during crossing situations, something that almost bore fruit when Murray headed on to the bar from a Sandeep Singh cross.
Vicuna’s side also allowed the likes of Farukh Chaudhary and Seiminlen Doungel a lot of space on the wings but made sure to double up on Nerijus Valskis in the middle. As a result, the only real opening the Lithuanian managed was in the first half when Aitor Monroy’s chipped pass was squandered by him. In attack, they almost always had one player hugging the byline in order to drag a Jamshedpur defender out and destabilize their back four. During set pieces, they also won the second ball more often than not as a result of their numerical advantage in the middle of the park as Owen Coyle’s men failed to create anything worthwhile through the middle.
In the end though, none of that mattered as the all-important goal remained elusive. As many as three efforts hit the bar or the post while Murray, Sahal Abdul Samad and Hooper came close multiple times. Be that as it may, they seem to have found a template now that works for them. Going forward this might be what they persist with and looking at the quality of the opportunities that they created, it might not be the worst idea with the league table currently in a precarious state.