Kerala Blasters outlasted Delhi Dynamos in the penalty shootout to secure a place in the final of the third edition of the Indian Super League.
Kerala Blasters came into the game on the back of a slender 1 goal advantage from the home leg. The Sachin Tendulkar-owned franchise traveled to the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium to replicate the exploits of the first season of the Indian Super League, where they reached the finals.
Marcelo Pereira unleashed a left-footed shot from inside the box to open the scoring for the match and restore parity over the two legs for the Delhi Dynamos. The match took a turn for the worse for the home side though, as only minutes later, Kerala Blasters restored the advantage as a brilliant solo run by Duckens Nazon saw the attacker slot it into the net.
To make matters worse, Delhi attacker Milan Singh was given marching orders for a rash tackle in the middle of the pitch. The first half saw 9 minutes of stoppage time and in the 8th minute of additional time, a brilliant set-piece by Marcos Tebar found the head of Ruben Rocha inside the Kerala Blasters box, whose header found the back of the net.
The goal got Delhi right back into the game, despite being down to 10 men. The second half ended as it started with nothing separating the two sides over two legs. The tie was locked at 2-2 and the absence of the away goals rule meant that the fixture went into extra time.
Extra time failed to yield a goal and a decisive result and the game went into shootout to see who joins Atletico De Kolkata in the final of the third iteration of the Indian Super League. Delhi had the home crowd advantage and were tipped to cross over the line.
Josu converted the first penalty for Kerala Blasters. Florent Malouda then stepped up to take the first spot-kick of the shootout for the Dynamos. But the former Chelsea winger blasted it into the crowd to give the Blasters the advantage. Antonio German had the opportunity to double Kerala’s advantage but the forward’s attempt was neatly saved by Antonio Doblas.
Delhi now ha the chance to crawl right back into contention, but Bruno Pelissari imitated Florent Malouda and sent the ball rising into the crowd. Kervens Belfort, though, did not miss the opportunity of doubling the Blasters advantage as he slotted it coolly in the centre of the goal.
Emerson De Moura stepped up to take a crucial spot-kick for the home side with elimination lingering on their minds. The player had to score to keep his side into the game. But, a brilliant stop from goalkeeper Sandip Nandy gave Kerala Blasters a chance to book their place into the finals of the Indian Super League.
Up stepped Mohamed Rafique, the player who spoiled the party for Kerala Blasters in the final of the first season of the Indian Super League. A conversion by the attacker would book Kerala Blasters’ place in the final and the former Atletico De Kolkata man did just that and with aplomb.
The shootout win ensures a rematch between the two finalists of the first campaign of the Indian Super League, and a chance for Kerala Blasters to avenge their final defeat to Atletico De Kolkata as the two teams face off in Kochi on December 18, 1900 hours IST, with Atletico aiming for an unprecedented second title while Kerala Blasters look to honour their brilliant and unwavering support with a title.