The 1st leg of the 2nd semifinal of the 2016 Hero ISL saw Delhi Dynamos Football Club, the only Hero Indian Super League club representing the North of India, travel to Kochi to face red-hot Kerala Blasters FC in a much anticipated clash.
Although the Blasters, who finished 2nd in the league stages, were on a 5-game win streak at home, they had never beaten the Lions in Kochi. After the final whistle, Kerala Blasters FC emerged winners in the first leg with a lone goal separating the two teams.
The Lions, under 2006 World Cup winning coach Gianluca Zambrotta, had been playing very attacking football having scored 27 goals during the regular season with contributions from all their attacking players.
The game started off at an extremely fast pace with both sides having chances from the beginning. Kean Lewis’s 1st minute shot was deflected past the near post. As usual it was Marcelinho who was doing most of the tormenting for the Lions and in the 35th minute was able to break down the Blasters defense with a mazy run, only to mishit his shot at the near post. Immediately before half-time the Blasters thought they had scored through Kervens Belfort, only to see the linesman’s flag up for an infringement in the build-up.
Play slowed down a bit in the second half while the two heavyweights continued to search for weaknesses in their opponents defenses. But it was the Blasters who drew blood in the 65th minute when star forward Belfort once again ran hard in to the Lions penalty box and scored off a slight deflection. The Lions pushed hard for an equalizer and although they had a number of half-chances they couldn’t quite get the away goal that would have tied up the score. In the 74th minute, a Malouda corner ended up in Marcelinho’s feet but his goal-bound shot was cleared off the line. Later in the 81st minute, Malouda’s promising pass found Kean Lewis, whose shot was safely negotiated by the Blasters defence.
Talking to the media after the match, Delhi Dynamos Head Coach Gianluca Zambrotta said, “We have done a lot of mistakes. We had a lot of opportunities but unfortunately were not able to utilize them.
We hope to do better in Delhi.”
When asked about the opposing team, Zambrotta said, “Kerala is a very good team and they play very well in counterattack. We lost 1-0, and from tonight we have to think about the next match and try to recover.”
The Lions now have three days to regroup before they host the Blasters in the return leg on December 14. Coach Zambrotta and the rest of the squad will spend time reviewing the match and making the necessary adjustments for the second leg in order to gain passage to the finals for the first time.