Disappointing defence hurting Kerala Blasters from tasting first victory of the season
“We didn't start the match against Chennaiyin FC that well but by the middle of the first half, we started to play better. We had more of the ball inside the opponents’ half. My feeling is that if we continue to play like this then we can get the three points,” said Kerala Blasters coach Kibu Vicuna at a post-match press conference on November 29.
Since then, the club went on to lose the next two games with a 3-1 loss to FC Goa on December 6, and a 4-2 hammering to Bengaluru FC on December 13. The team has lost three and drawn two in this season’s Indian Super League. For the first time since ISL's inception, the Kochi based franchise has gone without a win in its first five games.
After the Bengaluru game, when Vicuna was asked about the positives he took from the game, the coach gave an honest answer. “No. Now it is difficult to see the positives. We started well and scored two goals against Bengaluru, which is quite difficult. However, we are upset and disappointed. We have a lot of work to do,” said Vicuna, acknowledging that the team conceded too many goals and two out of the four goals were gifts. “It is frustrating because when we started the match, we played well. We have to improve because we are conceding too many goals. We conceded two goals which in my opinion were gifts,” he added.
Vicuna said that the club is working on finding a replacement for club captain Sergio Cidoncha, who has been ruled out with an ankle injury and has returned to Spain to recover.
Many pointed out the team's current problem lies in its defence and not playing the right players in the right positions. For instance, in the Bengaluru match, full back Lalruatthara played centre-back in absence of the suspended Costa Nhamoinesu. When the coach was asked why Lalruatthara played that position despite the club having other options, Vicunna replied, “Lalruatthara is training as a central defender and has been performing well. So, I thought he was the best option to play with Bakaray Kone."
After the Blasters' loss to Bengaluru, fans took to social media to tweet out their disappointment. Not just fans, even football enthusiasts and sports journalists questioned the club’s decision-making process. Sports journalist Marcus Mergulhao tweeted: “Kerala Blasters FC are without a win in four games but imagine the same team with Tiri, Sandesh Jhingan at the back and Bartholomew Ogbeche as striker. All three players had valid contracts with the club this season.” In reply to this tweet, former Blasters coach and current analyst, Eelco Schattorie took a shot indirectly at the club management asking, “What if they still had the same coach?”
Schattorie managed the Blasters for the 2019-20 season and was a fan favourite for his managerial style and the smart tactics he deployed. However, the team finished 7th place, and the club let him go. Seeing the Blasters perform this season, many fans have questioned the club management’s decision to fire Schattorie and have requested that Schattorie returns to manage the club if there is a chance.
The club has to pick up its defence big time as they will be East Bengal FC on December 20. Both teams are yet to pick up their first win of this season. Fans will be hoping for the team to turn things around.