The moment of reckoning has arrived. There are no escape routes any more. Perform or perish is the norm from now on and Kerala Blasters will have to take that seriously. They will not be short of support from the milling crowds that are most certainly expected in Kochi on Saturday.
Indeed, to use the much worn out cliché, all roads will lead to the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, not to mention the festive atmosphere that will be created there. Nothing will be wanting in presenting an electric ambience. It is the team and the players who have to draw the inspiration.
Statistics thus far do not provide a glowing tribute to the way the Kerala team has performed. With just 79 strikes at the goal and only nine goals scored in 14 matches, the team’s weakness is instantly known. Even the win over FC Pune City that fetched the team a semi-final berth was barely deserved – Kerala rode their luck.
The coach’s prescription is clear: be more adventurous in front of the goal or learn to translate the good work in practice sessions to productive ends in the actual contests. Ask Iain Hume how this is possible. Having scored four out of the nine goals for KBFC, he has truly been the star of the side.
The Canadian, who has scored over 100 goals playing in England, is a serious student of the game. As assistant coach Trevor Morgan revealed after the Blasters defeated Pune by that solitary goal off Hume, “I’m really pleased with Humey’s (Iain Hume) free kick as we were practising them in training yesterday and he has come here and scored.”
It is time for the others to take a leaf out of Hume’s performance level and raise the hopes and aspirations of the team and their supporters. Penn Orji, Michael Chopra, CS Sabeeth, MilagresGonsalves, Pedro Gusmao and Andrew Barisic are some of them who have shown the capability to surprise rival defences but little else.They need to share the burden with the smiling assassin that Hume is.
One thing that is acknowledged is that the Blasters have a solid defence layout. Frenchman Cedric Hengbart, Irishman Colin Falvey and IndiansNirmalChettri, Gurwinder Singh and SandeshJhingan have taken turns to ensure Kerala’s defensive shield is the tournament’s best. In goal, skipper and head coach David James has inspired as long as he was fit but Sandip Nandy has not been far behind. His show was the highlight ofKerala Blasters’ win over Pune. If only the attack too matched this,they would not be left pondering on how to get those elusive goals.
Testing times await Kerala Blasters especially since they face Chennaiyin FC – the only team to have won in Kochi so far.