Kerala Blasters were defeated in the ISL final by Hyderabad FC, but there is no doubt that Ivan Vukomanovic’s team earned the hearts of Kerala football fans.
The start of the 2021-22 season did not go well for Kerala Blasters. Blasters were hoping to put on a nice display after years of obscurity, but they were blasted away by ATK Mohun Bagan in a 2-4 defeat in the curtain-raiser, and aspirations were quickly dashed.
That flop, though, proved to be the wake-up call Vukomanovic and his teammates needed. The club went on a 10-match unbeaten streak that began on November 25 with their second outing and continued through the New Year and into January, setting the tone for their remarkable season.
With more such impressive performances Kerala made it to the finals but alas, they lost on penalty shoot-outs to Hyderabad!
Here is how all of it unfolded!
Story of the match
Neither team was able to connect together a pass sequence in the first ten minutes. Nerves and the first experience with a crowded stadium this season appeared to be taking their toll. Even yet, the contours of Kerala’s game plan began to emerge.
There were chances on both ends in the first half, but unfortunately, the half ended at a 0-0 scoreline. Kerala had won the possession battle but Hyderabad was starting to grow into the game.
A goalkeeping error broke the ISL final deadlock. Kattimani has been the team’s darling, with the most saves this season among all goalkeepers.
However, his near post was easily broken as Rahul KP picked up the ball in the midfield and was allowed to take a shot from outside the box by a Hyderabad defensive line that chose to retreat rather than tackle the midfielder.
The shot was low and hard-hitting, but it should have been saved.
With the clock ticking, it appeared as Kerala had finally won their maiden ISL title. Until the 87th minute, that is.
Taking a half-volley shot, Sahil Tavora the Goan, who was playing for Hyderabad in Goa, delivered a screamer to keep his club in the final. A few minutes later, the referee sounded his whistle, and the ISL final headed to extra time for the third time in eight years.
Kerala created the only chance of note in the first half of extra time. Adrian Luma’s corner found midfielder Jeakson Singh, who headed in the goal. However, the ball sailed over the crossbar for the second time that night for Kerala.
Hyderabad had the best opportunity in the second half. After a pass from the wings, Ogbeche had time to take his shot.
However, the Nigerian’s quiet night in front of goal continued as his effort was cleared off the line. Thirty minutes of extra time were ineffective in determining a winner, therefore the game was decided on penalties.
Kattimani redeemed himself, and in a big way!
The 32-year-old was continually speaking with Kerala’s penalty takers, moving the ball away from the spot, and distracting them. The end result was a game-changing shootout effort that included three vital stops on shots by Marko Leskovic, Nishu Kumar, and Jeakson.
As well as an ISL trophy for rewards!