The Kerala Blasters defeat Odisha FC 2-0 to clinch the top spot in the eighth season of the Indian Super League. Both goals were scored in the first half of the match at Tilak Stadium in Vasco.
The Tuskers are on a ten-game unbeaten streak out of their 11 matches. They now have 20 points and have toppled Jamshedpur FC for the number one seed.
The team, under Ivan Vukomanović, has not lost a single match in 10 matches, with five wins and five draws. Odisha FC suffered their fifth defeat of the 2021-22 ISL. The Kalinga Warriors, under Kiko Ramirez, have 13 points and are placed eighth in the league.
After Nishu Kumar opened the scoring for Kerala Blasters in the 28th minute, Harmanjot Khabra extended the lead in the 40th minute with a header. This was the second consecutive victory of Kerala Blasters over Odisha. In the first round, too, Kerala had won 2-1.
Tuskers dominance continues
The Kerala Blasters dominated the game with two goals in the first half. The Tuskers took early advantage as Defender Nishu Kumar scored the first goal in the 28th minute. Kumar was brought in the playing eleven as the replacement for the injured Jessel Carneiro.
Odisha goalkeeper Arshdeep Singh was caught napping as the 24-year-old curled the ball in from an Adrian Luna assist. The Tuskers soon doubled their lead as Harmanjot Khabra scored the first goal of his ISL career in the 40th minute. Khabra hit the perfect header once again from a Luna corner kick.
Playmaking star Adrian Luna
Kerala Blasters Adrian Luna had another impressive game with two assists. In the 2021-22 ISL season, the Uruguayan has dished out three assists and scored two goals for the Tuskers this season.
In the post-match press conference, Ivan Vukomanovic, Head Coach, Kerala Blasters, talked about the team's performance. He said, "We had a special reason to win today because we lost two players with injuries and we had to fight in this match for him (Jessel Carneiro). I would like to congratulate our opponents, coming into the game with all the COVID worries. We are happy that we have won because we have three more points and a clean sheet and hope to continue the same in the future."
Tuskers midfielder Lalthathanga Khawlhring also reflected on the team's performance against Odisha FC. He said, "I think we dominated the game today, but we were a bit tired in the second half. But, I think we deserved the three points. Right now, we are in a process and we have a lot of games to play."
Kerala Blasters defender Harmanjot Khabra was elated by the team's victory and his first ISL goal. He said, "It is my first goal in ISL. We are missing Jessel, as well as Rahul. The goal is very special to me and credit goes to the whole team, especially Luna - he makes it. It is good when you have got the man you have played in past seasons (about Nishu Kumar)."