Kerala Blasters and FC Pune City played out an enterprising 1-1 draw at the Belawadi Stadium, with Cedric Hengbart and Mohamed Sissoko getting on the score-sheet for both the teams respectively.
The game was played at an impressive pace, and a lot of chances were created to keep both the goalkeepers busy throughout the game. Kerala Blasters, who had only one shot on target in the first three games of the ISL 2016 season, looked a changed side for the second game running and would be raring to re-write their journey of the first season when they reached the finals.
Also read: Twitter Reacts to Pune City FC drawing with Kerala Blasters
With the return of Antonio Lopez Habas in the next match, Pune City would be happy to have earned the critical point but the Stallions would also be ruing a lot of missed chances.
Here, we take a look at the five talking points from the game.
#1 Jonathan Lucca looks a shadow of himself
The attacking midfielder looks a shadow of what he was last season for FC Goa. The player, known for his incisive passing in the attacking third, hasn’t been doing much since the beginning of ISL 2016.
The Brazilian is drifting a lot towards the right and thus, is getting a little ineffective and lost. The former AS Roma youth player scored three goals and created two in a highly-effective campaign last season for the Zico-coached side, which reached the finals.
It is time Antonio Lopez Habas gives his creative master the much-needed speed and confidence around him, like Jofre and Mandar Rao last season, to become the lethal midfield orchestral link he formerly was. Jonathan wasted a lot of balls in the final third of the pitch, making ineffective runs down the right wing, cutting the space for Tato and only looked a little effective from set-pieces late into the second half.
It is inevitable to say that Tato should be tried at the No. 10 position in place of the Brazilian, who looks to have left his creativity at FC Goa. At times, even holding midfielder Bruno Arias looked more threatening than the No. 10 and the coach needs to give his player a little rest to refill his tank and hunger.
#2 The all-Indian Pune backline looks inexperienced
It was a rare occasion in the ISL history. Pune City FC fielded an all-Indian backline, with the experienced and former Indian international Gourmangi Singh asked to lead the line. Playing with youngsters like Rahul Bheke, Ravanan and Narayan Das, it was always going to be a tough task for the defender who has made 69 appearances for the national team.
While the 30-year-old Manipuri defender had a safe outing, the other three looked a little intimidated. With Narayan Das the only other player appearing for the Blue Tigers, the experience on the big stage lacked and that showed in the goal and the game in general.
The right-side defensive pair of Rahul Bheke and Ravanan gave a little too much space to Michael Chopra, who exploited them smartly on a number of occasions. The former Sunderland striker has lost a yard of pace but still controlled proceedings well, interchanging passes with Rafique and Nazon. The defence needs to push itself a little and can get better with playing more games together.
The mess-up between Gourmangi and Edel Bete in the 61st minute almost created another goal for Kerala, which was another example of the lack of experience and communication between the Indian defender and the goalkeeper and the coach would need to work on that.
#3 What Michael Chopra lacks in speed, he makes up for in footballing intelligence
A lot has been spoken and written about Michael Chopra’s lack of fitness and ability to compete in the ISL, but the first Indian-origin footballer to score in the English Premier League is showing everyone his abilities and has silenced the critics with some strong performances.
Since starting in the last match against Mumbai City FC, the diminutive striker has looked very effective in link-up play and has created a lot of chances for his teammates. What is interesting is that every player in and around him is feeding off him well and that has worked perfectly for the Sachin Tendulkar-owned side.
The player created two brilliant shooting chances for Mehtab Hossain and Mohammed Rafi in both the halves.
Steve Coppell, however, would be hoping his chief tormentor in attack calms down a little and controls his theatrics on the field, which has seen him earn two avoidable yellow cards in the last two games. The Kerala side, though, are gaining a little momentum and credit must be given to the trickery and footballing intelligence of the player who featured for England in all youth age groups.
#4 Dramane Traore needs to step up his performance
The striker needs to better his finishing for FC Pune City and kill off chances. The Mali International has appeared 29 times for his country and has scored 6 times, but looks to have misplaced his finishing boots since the beginning of ISL 2016.
The player should’ve capitalized on a chance created by an Aaron Hughes’ misreading of a header which fell to him at the edge of the penalty box, which he shot wide. The striker got three other goal-scoring chances, but didn’t even test the goalkeeper. The former Lokomotiv Moscow player did not do much in the link-up play and couldn’t involve his other attacking team-mates throughout the game.
The striker did create a chance at the dying moments, with a shoot on the turn, but that was blocked off by the disciplined Kerala defence. It will be interesting to see how long the Pune think-tank perseveres with the missing hitman, who looks like an attacking threat in the air but has not been doing enough to warrant a spot in the side.
#5 Kerala Blasters look a reinvigorated side
The team might have managed a draw against Pune City FC, but they already look a changed side from the one which managed just one shot on target from the first three games. With Michael Chopra playing just behind the striker in both the games, the Kerala Blasters have had a completely reignited look to them in the last two matches.
Playing at a faster pace, the Steve Coppell side has benefited from Jhingan’s re-positioning to right-back. The Indian international is enjoying his runs up ahead, alike left-back Josu Currais. With Mahamat and Mehtab Hossain sitting just in front of the defence and playing with higher intensity in the attacking half, Kerala Blasters are feeding off well from the supply of the experienced Michael Chopra in the final third.
While two goals in two games shows an average picture, the change is pretty evident on the field. The team is creating a lot of chances and also look more confident on the ball. Stringing passes in the opposition half did not look to be a problem anymore for the second game running and this would bode well for the Kerala team, which boasts of the biggest fan-base in the league.
More Indian Football news, transfer rumours, analysis and features at Sportskeeda.com