Michael Chopra scored his first goal in the Hero Indian Super League helping Kerala register their first win of the season as the hosts beat Mumbai City FC 1-0 at Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, Kochi, on Friday.
Chopra’s 58th minute goal gave Kerala the headstart they needed to their disappointing campaign this season by handing Mumbai City FC their first defeat after four matches.
Kerala Blasters manager Steve Coppell had promised entertaining football to Kerala’s legion of fans and he did not disappoint with his selection of players, opting for an ultra-attacking line-up. Kerala Blasters showed their intent from the minute go, as they attacked Mumbai’s territory four times in the first 9 minutes. Striker Mohammad Rafi, who was among the goal scorers last season, was handed his first start and the local lad dived straightway into the action.
In the first minute itself, Kervens Belfort charged down the left flank and essayed a good ball inside the danger zone where Rafi put his height to good use but his header went straight into the hands of the Mumbai City goalkeeper Roberto Netto.
A minute later, Rafi again found space for himself on the right flank but instead of passing the ball to an unmarked Chopra, he went for glory himself, ending up with an embarrassing shot that sailed wide.
There was another chance for Rafi inside the first six minutes when he was through from a long ball but the Mumbai goalkeeper got to the ball before Rafi could do any damage with his third chance of the game.
It was Chopra who got closest to breaking the deadlock in the 45th minute when his low grounder after a superb long ball from Josue Prieto was kept away by the fingertips of the Mumbai goalkeeper. In added time, Kerala went close for another time, this time Rafi’s header missing the target by a whisker.
Kerala Blasters finally got the goal they deserved in the 58th minute with Chopra breaking his duck in the Hero ISL. It was Belfort who tried his luck at goal but the ball deflected and fell for Chopra.
The former Newcastle striker thanked his stars and a static Mumbai defence as he just worked the ball past the goalkeeper to score Kerala’s first goal in this edition of the ISL.
Mumbai City were clearly second best on the night, yet they could have escaped with a point. Substitute Sony Norde danced his way inside the danger zone from the left and took a shot at goal. The ball seemed headed for goal with keeper Sandip Nandy beaten but Kerala marquee Aaron Hughes jumped to his team’s rescue and effected a timely clearance.
Kerala Blasters now have four points from four matches while Mumbai City FC have seven points.