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ISL 2017/18: Dimitar Berbatov, the unsung hero of Kerala Blasters

1.16K   //    10 Feb 2018, 15:21 IST

Dimitar Berbatov (Photo: ISL)
Dimitar Berbatov (Photo: ISL)

Bulgarian star forward Dimitar Berbatov scored his first goal for the Kerala Blasters FC in the ISL tie against ATK on Thursday. The former International’s goal earned the away team a vital point at the iconic Yuba Bharati Krirangan in Kolkata. With the 2-2 draw, the Kerala-based team has now climbed up to the 5th position, with a possibility of qualifying for the senifinal playoffs.

Much was talked about the performance of the former Manchester United player, but finally, he has something to defend himself. Kerala’s Gudjon Baldvinsson drew first blood in the 33rd minute which was equalised by former Newcastle man Ryan Taylor five minutes later. Berbatov’s brilliant strike within 10 minutes of the second half put the visitors ahead, before Tom Thorpe saved the blushes for ATK with his goal in the 75th minute.

The former Manchester United man may not have been a highlight in the Indian Super League, but he could be termed as the “unsung hero” for the Sachin Tendulkar co-owned side.

Though he is mainly known for his scoring capabilities, Berbatov has been playing a different role in the ongoing league. The 37-year-old has done a pretty impressive job as a central midfielder, distributing the ball to the players up front.

In fact, Berbatov has been a lot more involved in attack, than some of his other more celebrated teammates at Kerala Blasters. He has, in fact, managed to take more touches and play more passes than his more celebrated teammates Iain Hume and Courage Pekuson. In fact Berbatov's passing accuracy (79 percent) is much higher than that of Pekuson (71.1 percent) and Hume (54.57 percent).

A statistical comparison of Berbatov, Hume and Pekuson (Image courtesy: Amrit/Twitter)

While the general consensus about the Bulgarian is that his defensive work rate is low, Berbatov has not been poor in defence either. In fact, he has made 2.041 tackles per game, which is a decent rate for a creative midfielder. Hume, who is known for hustling opposition defenders while he is off the ball, has made only 0.66 tackles per game.

However, one defensive area where the Bulgarian has trumped both his teammates is in the number of clearances he has made (1.837 per game). By comparison, Pekuson (0.473) and Hume (0.33) have made far fewer clearances than Berbatov.

Enter captComparision of Kerala Blasters FC players' (Berbatov, Hume and Pekuson)ion
A statistical comparison of Berbatov, Hume and Pekuson (Image courtesy: Amrit/Twitter)It seems to have been a well-spent purchase for the Kerala-based side to secure the services of Berbatov at the fag end of his career. The 37-year-old is playing a responsible role for them and will be more than helpful as we approach the business end of the annual competition. It has been a wait of seven matches till he finally found the back of the net, but its better late than never.

Kerala Blasters have been one of the most consistent teams in the history of the Indian Super League but they have been eluded the coveted title despite reaching the final on two occasions.

With Iain Hume out injured, the onus will fall senior players like Berbatov to take the onus for initiating the attacks. Although the forer Manchester United man may not be at his best as a striker anmore, it is clear that he has been influencing the Blasters in more ways than meets the eye.

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A sports lover par excellence. Keeping track of sports-related events around the world is my passion, addiction, and would like to take it up as a profession. India locking horns with Pakistan in front of a packed Eden Gardens is a sight I crave for.
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