It was a big opening night in Kochi for the Islanders and they did not disappoint. Amine Chermiti’s pinpoint finish from inside the area followed by Amrinder Singh’s jaw-dropping save helped us to our first-ever victory over Kerala Blasters in Kerala.
Captain Amrinder Singh led the line for us with debutant Mato Grgić pairing up with Sarthak Golui at the centre of the defence. Subhasish Bose and Souvik filled up the wing-back positions.
Rowllin produced a fine performance on his debut in the middle of the park with the impressive Raynier supporting him. It was a front-three of Larbi, Chermiti and Diego Carlos leading the attack for us.
The game started in a frantic manner with both sides missing early passes but Rowllin made sure that the loose balls were easily won in the midfield. The first big moment came in the 4th minute when Chermiti was brought down in the box but the referee waved away the penalty appeal.
The replays showed contact in the box but the decision didn't go in our favour. Our other debutant Diego Carlos lit up the wings for us as last season’s four-goal hero Modou Sougou was on the bench. Carlos was in top gear as he whipped in a brilliant cross only for Larbi to head it wide in the 10th minute.
Just a few minutes later, Carlos’ went for goal with a stunning strike from an improbable angle but Blasters’ goalkeeper Bilal punched it away for a corner.
We suffered a double-blow near the end of the first-half after Paulo Machado and Mato Grgić had to be substituted due to injuries within minute. With Pratik Chaudhari and Modou Sougou coming on, our Islanders made sure that the intensity was not lost. At the stroke of half-time, the Blasters put in a dangerous cross but Ogbeche’s header was denied by a brilliant low save from captain Amrinder Singh.
With the game level at 0-0, the second half began in a similar fashion with some loose passes from both sides. The defence led by Sarthak and Pratik put in a mammoth display of power, winning almost every header that was put in the box meanwhile Subhasish and Souvik made sure that the Blasters’ wingers don’t get a sniff at goal.
Coach Jorge Costa made his last change of the night when Serge Kevyn made his way in for Diego Carlos in the 73rd minute.
With no big chances at either end, the match threatened to go scoreless in front of a noisy crowd at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Kochi. Modou Sougou was busy stretching a tired Blasters’ defence as he also had an attempt on goal. Larbi’s deep crosses were also very challenging for the hosts’ defence to cope with.
The biggest moment of the match came in the 82nd minute when a low cross from Souvik was missed by two Blasters’ defenders and Chermiti bringing all his experience into play slotted home with 8 minutes to play and silence the home crowd.
The Tunisian made sure that the keeper did not get a chance to move an inch as his strike was beautiful and perfect. With a memorable debut goal, Chermiti made sure that the celebrations were also perfect after kissing the camera.
Jorge Costa's boys could have doubled the lead minutes later after a miscommunication between the Blasters’ goalkeeper Bilal collided with his defender giving Kevyn and open goal to score but our debutant could not make the most of the opportunity.
We needed to hold on to the lead as the clock ticked to 90 minutes and 5 more minutes were added for injuries and stoppages. At 90+5, captain Amrinder Singh produced a save that will be spoken about for ages which can also be an early contender for the save of the season. Or six.
Ogbeche controlled Sahal’s perfect cross and smashed a volley straight at Amrinder from point-blank range but was denied by our No.1’s brilliant reflexes. This save not only kept our 3 points safe but also gave our custodian his 16th ISL clean sheet.
With this victory we move to Chennai high on confidence to face Chennaiyin FC who lost their opening game against FC Goa.