The Kerala Blasters juggernaut rolled on unabated as they recorded their fourth successive victory with a 2-0 win over Jamshedpur FC in a fourth-round Reliance Foundation Development League (RFDL) match here at the Benaulim Ground on Wednesday.
In another game, Reliance Foundation Young Champs (RFYC) and Chennaiyin FC played a goalless draw at the Nagoa Ground.
In front of a good turnout despite the searing heat, Nihal Sudeesh (27th, 84th) scored a brace on either side of halftime to help Kerala maintain their 100% record and also a fourth clean sheet in as many matches.
Kerala now have 12 points from four outings, while Jamshedpur remain on seven from four games.
It was supposed to be a contest where two evenly matched teams would fight for bragging rights. Jamshedpur, coming on the back of a 5-1 rout of FC Goa fancied their chances against a Kerala side who have looked the part. But at the end of ninety minutes, head coach Tomasz Tchorz’s tactical nous paid off as he not only managed to bottle Jamshedpur’s attack but also counter their physical threat.
Kerala had the players to execute their coach’s plan too, and in the 27th minute that came to light when a good move saw Sreekuttan M.S. cut back for Nihal who slammed home from close range, catching the Jamshedpur defence napping.
The brilliant Ayush Adhikari saw his free kick spilled by Vishal Yadav in Jamshedpur goal, three minutes into the second half as Vincy Barretto, in the middle of another superb outing, forced Yadav into a fine stop as Kerala upped the ante in the second period after dictating the pace of the game in the first. Finally, the boys in yellow doubled their tally. Barretto found Nihal with a jinking run into the box and then a cute pull-back while off balance. Seeing the keeper out of his line, Nihal slotted the ball into an empty net as he and Kerala capped off another good day in office.
Earlier in the day, RF Young Champs and Chennaiyin FC tried hard to break the deadlock but both lacked teeth upfront. In the first half, Chennaiyin created a few early openings but none a clear-cut chance to cause RF Young Champs goalkeeper Ranit Sarkar any trouble. Ranit was brilliant under the bar, making some outstanding saves.
For the Marina Machans, Sufiyan Shaikh got on the end of a few chances, dragging wide from close on a couple of occasions after some good work in the final third by Suhail Pasha and Johnson Joseph, both back in the starting XI.
RF Young Champs took time to warm up to the game, Mikhil Promod and Rashid CK spurning chances in front of goal. Five minutes before halftime, Shaikh drilled a free header just over the bar as both teams went into the break goalless.
The second half followed almost the same script until the last ten minutes when both teams pushed for the elusive winner. Niketh N headed just over the bar from a good corner while Ranit pulled off a stunning save to deny Solaimalai in stoppage time. The best chance, though, fell to RF Young Champs when Razibul Mistry was in the clear but dragged his effort wide from close range.