Scott Neville’s last-second goal earned the Red and Golds a hard-fought point against the Yellow Army…
Scott Neville’s 90+5′ goal which earned East Bengal a point against Kerala Blasters was nothing but poetic justice for the Red and Golds who had dropped two points just a month against the same opposition when Jeakson scored late in the match.
Friday’s encounter was an end-to-end affair. However, the fare on display did not really set the stage alight. East Bengal had more ball possession in the match while Kerala Blasters created better goal scoring opportunities.
35.4% – @KeralaBlasters had a possession of 35.4% in the game against @sc_eastbengal, their least since their game against @bengalurufc in February 2019 (29.4%). Shoddy. #SCEBKBFC #HeroISL #LetsFootball pic.twitter.com/ArfYMfp7F9
— OptaJeev (@OptaJeev) January 15, 2021
East Bengal received an early blow even before the match started as Raju Gaikwad was ruled out of the game after he had picked up an injury in the warm-up. Rana Gharami came in as a late change in the starting lineup. Gaikwad, who looked to have adapted well to Fowler’s system, was a miss for the Red and Golds as Gharami looked shaky and unsettled throughout the match. In fact, Gharami was at fault for not covering Jordan Murray who latched on to a long goal-kick from Albino Gomes to score the opener.
Also, it was a rare off day in midfield for Matti Steinmann. The German midfielder who plays a pivotal role in this East Bengal side and controls the pace of the game was not at his usual best, allowing the Kerala Blasters players time and space in midfield.
It could be argued that Steinmann was playing his fourth consecutive game in just 12 days and fatigue might have played its part in his underwhelming outing. It was no surprise to see Fowler bench him in the second half and bring Anthony Pilkington on. This switch saw East Bengal improve a bit in midfield and start to create more pressure on the Kerala Blasters defence.
However, East Bengal could not really penetrate and score that opener, with the talismanic Bright Enobakhare also struggling to get going. They were forced to rely on Neville’s late intervention to snatch a point and extend their unbeaten run to six games. It has been a month since Fowler’s side tasted defeat and given the kind of start they had, the team has done really well to reach this point.
However, the squad depth will be put to test in the coming days as they are scheduled to play four matches in 14 days, starting from their encounter against Chennaiyin on Monday.
The Kerala Blasters defence has been a subject of criticism right from the beginning of the season, but against East Bengal, they looked sturdy. They managed to keep Bright Enobakhare silent for the majority of the match which some of the most reputed defences in the league couldn’t in the past few matches.
Kerala Blasters played a style of football which is generally not associated with their Spanish coach Kibu Vicuna who likes to play possession-based football and playing from the back style. Blasters played long balls more often than not and concentrated heavily on solidifying their defence instead of going all out in attack.
In the end, it was a fair result for both sides as neither team deserved to win on the night. There weren’t enough goal scoring chances on either side and a draw should make both the outfits happy.