Led by Kedar Jadhav, Kolhapur Tuskers assemble a strong side
Kerala Blasters FC overcome Jamshedpur FC challenge to secure maiden ISL final spot
Kerala Blasters FC have finally reached their maiden Hero Indian Super League (ISL) final after a long interval of more than five years as they held Jamshedpur FC to a 1-1 draw in the second leg of the semi-final to claim a 2-1 win on aggregate as their 1-0 win in the first leg proved to be vital for the yellow army.
Adrian Luna’s opener (18’) put Kerala Blasters FC 2-0 up on aggregate but Pronay Halder’s strike (50’) got Jamshedpur FC back in the tie. Ivan Vukomanovic’s team though defended astutely to keep Owen Coyle’s side at bay and booked a place in the final.
The Blasters started brightly and should have scored in the 2nd minute when Alvaro Vazquez was played in through on goal via a deflection that fell kindly but the Kerala Blasters FC forward attempted an audacious chip that went just wide.
Eight minutes later, Kerala Blasters FC once again exploited the space behind the Jamshedpur FC defence as Jorge Diaz put the ball in the back of the net but the offside flag came to Jamshedpur FC’s rescue.
In the 18th minute, Kerala Blasters FC eventually broke through when Luna danced his way to the edge of the box before sending a sublime finish past TP Rehenesh in goal to put Blasters in front on the night and double their lead on aggregate.
Jamshedpur FC then had a goal by Daniel Chima Chukwu ruled out in the 36th minute for offside as Kerala Blasters FC managed to go into the break with their one-goal lead on the night intact.
Jamshedpur FC started positively in the second half and were rewarded with a goal in the 50th minute when Chukwu’s header from a Greg Stewart free-kick fell kindly for Halder who poked home from close range.
There were shouts for a handball in the build-up but the referee waved it away to give Jamshedpur FC a lifeline.
Kerala Blasters FC then almost restored their two-goal lead on aggregate when Vazquez’s chip was partly saved by Rehenesh allowing Eli Sabia to clear off the line in the 51st minute.
Four minutes later, Kerala Blasters FC had another chance to score when Marko Leskovic headed a luna free-kick just wide of the target.
At the other end, Prabhuskhan Gill had to be alert as he produced a fine save to deny Ishan Pandita whose sweetly-struck half-volley in the 64th minute seemed destined for the target.
Two minutes later, Gill had to thank Diaz to bail him out after he punched a Stewart free-kick right back in the mix but Diaz was there to clear on the line and keep Kerala Blasters FC in the lead on aggregate, intact.
Pandita then had another great chance to level the tie for Jamshedpur FC in the dying minutes when he sent a free header from a Stewart free-kick straight into the hands of Gill.
Jamshedpur FC kept the pressure on the Blasters but they held on to go through on aggregate despite the draw on the night.
Kerala Blasters FC will face either Hyderabad FC or ATK Mohun Bagan in the final on Sunday.