Picture Courtesy: ISL
The Indian Soccer League got off to a fine start as Kerala came back from behind to defeat Kolkata 2-1 yesterday. The season 6 opener served an entertaining contest to the 36,000 plus crowd who had gathered at Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Kochi.
Earlier Tiger Shroff & Disha Patani entertained the crowd to their famous Bollywood hits. That was followed by Chairperson Nita Ambani who brought the coveted trophy on the stage & announced the tournament as open. She even wished both the teams & gave a “Let’s Football” shoutout.
The teams were announced & there were a few surprises. And then there was a familiar face in the Kolkata dugout as Antonio Habas was back at the helm. Their beloved coach who guided them to 2 ISL trophies had returned back after 3 seasons. Kerala’s new coach Eelco Schattorie was joined by his former Northeast protégé Bartholomew Ogbeche.
The visitors took an early lead in the 6th minute through center-back Carl Mchugh who struck a superb volley into the net. The Irishman was nicely assisted by his defense partner Augustin Iniguez’s header. The sea of yellow supporting the home team was left stunned through this early setback. But little did they know it was going to be their night.
Kerala got back in the 30th minute courtesy to an Ogbeche penalty. Although keeper Arindam Bhattacharya guessed it right, the placement was perfectly out of reach. Jairo appeared to be fouled by Pranay Halder but replays showed there was hardly any contact. And referee Coimbatore Ramaswamy Srikrishna’s decision further angered the Kolkata bench as they themselves had been denied in what looked like a clear penalty. Michael Soosairaj had his jersey tugged & brought down to the ground by Sergio Cidoncha.
And just at the stroke of half time, Kerala took the lead & once again it was their main man Ogbeche on the scoresheet. Kolkata failed to deal with the ball which was played into the box & he made no mistake blasting it into the net. The house erupted with joy as the home team had completed their comeback and went comfortably placed at half time.
The second half saw Kolkata creating many chances but they missed a few & Kerala somehow held onto their slim lead. And with that, they have made a superb start to the campaign. Kolkata, on the other hand, is led by an able coach & team who can turn it around from this minor setback. There was everything a neutral could have asked for in this season opener. From goals to exciting play to the controversy to comeback. One can only expect more going into the season.
Match Awards –
Club Award – Kerala
Limitless Player of the Match – Jairo Rodrigues
Emerging Player of the Match – Jeakson Singh
Hero of the Match – Bartholomew Ogbeche