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ISL 2016: A Lacklustre Final

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Kochi: All India Football Federation President Praful Patel, ISL chairman Nita Ambani, Kerala Blasters co-owner Sachin Tendulkar and Atletico de Kolkata co-owner Sourav Ganguly during ISL final between Kerala Blasters and Atletico de Kolkata in Kochi, on Dec 18, 2016. (Photo: IANS)
All India Football Federation President Praful Patel, ISL chairman Nita Ambani, Kerala Blasters co-owner Sachin Tendulkar and Atletico de Kolkata co-owner Sourav Ganguly during ISL final between Kerala Blasters and Atletico de Kolkata in Kochi, on Dec 18, 2016. (Photo: IANS)

Packed stadium of fifty thousand plus noisy crowd…forms a yellow sea hardly any other colour to pick from the crowd…home team playing in their fortress…opponents are the most consistent team in the league..the perfect setup for a grand finale to a grand league…all you expect is a cracker of the day in the middle….writes Prasobh Padmanabhan

Kochi: All India Football Federation President Praful Patel, ISL chairman Nita Ambani, Kerala Blasters co-owner Sachin Tendulkar and Atletico de Kolkata co-owner Sourav Ganguly during ISL final between Kerala Blasters and Atletico de Kolkata in Kochi, on Dec 18, 2016. (Photo: IANS)
All India Football Federation President Praful Patel, ISL chairman Nita Ambani, Kerala Blasters co-owner Sachin Tendulkar and Atletico de Kolkata co-owner Sourav Ganguly during ISL final between Kerala Blasters and Atletico de Kolkata in Kochi, on Dec 18, 2016. (Photo: IANS)

You may expect this in a world cup final with yellow coloured fans of Brazil on one side..but this is the final of Hero Indian Super League, season three.

A high voltage clash was expected in Kaloor Jawaharlal Nehru stadium as the football giants Kerala and Kolkata lock horns each other. But sad to say, the final was a lacklustre one. Both teams failed to keep up the expectations and were fall short of nothing less than wayward performance.

Kerala Blasters are highly relied on kervens Belfort and C.K Vineeth as they are the mainstay of Blasters attack. But both were highly marked on the day and that resulted in lack of creating any clear cut chances. Meanwhile Athletico were building play from their one touch passes and created three opportunities in the first 20 minutes. But their star striker, the world cup and Euro cup player, Helder Postiga rushed on to the ball and smashed it way past the target.

This was the story in the first half as both teams failed to make a shot on target in the first half.

Kerala were badly affected by the suspension of Josu Kurias in the left back position as the replaced Ishfak Ahammed was not able to create any push from that side and Athletico was keep on targeting his lack of pace. This weakens the performance of Belfort as he was not getting any deliveries from left flank and he decided to hold back to minimise the void, eventually letting down the attack. Add to the set back of Aaron Hughes’s injury, centre back Hengbart was overloaded with Ishfak’s duty.

There was a beauty in Athletico’s passing game, but they disappointed in the attacking third. Canadian striker Ian Hume was under the constant radar of  Mehtab Hossain and Cedrik Hengbart. His co-players were not able to push through the middle . The game lost the pace at the fag end of 90 minutes and feels they were stretching all the time. It never reminded us the feeling of a breath taking final as the mood was of a group stage match.

Eventually the most consistent team in the  league crowned the title for the second time, and that too beating the same side. Kerala Blasters fans deserve a big credit for propelling their team to the last game of the tournament as the team lacks any superstars in the mid and front areas. Kochi cheered for the team in their full voice irrespective of their win and loss, that was the beauty of watching final, even though the crowd stunned when Jewel Raja found the net in penalties for Kolkata.

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