FootballISL 2020

Kerala Blasters FC are a tough nut to crack but can they stop the Jamshedpur FC winning machine?

By ISL media team

Hero Indian Super League (ISL) outfit has thrown the kitchen sink at Jamshedpur FC. They have created tons of chances and to an extent, the Men of Steel are fortunate to have not conceded the initiative completely. They hang on โ€“ often relying on a combination of luck and last-ditch defending.

And then, a switch is flicked. Jamshedpur FC begin swarming the opposition, they carve open opportunities and by any way humanly possible, make the net bulge. It isnโ€™t pretty. If anything, it is the embodiment of how a team in the Hero ISL can graft, grit their teeth and ultimately grind out a victory.

At first, those at the venue feel that this is some sort of aberration. No club, in the Hero ISL or any other league, is trained to find themselves on the back foot so much before turning the tables almost instantly.

Yet, Jamshedpur FC manage to do it every time they take the field. So much so that many begin wondering if this is, in contrast to what common footballing logic and wisdom has taught them, the ultimate method to win games of football.

 

Now imagine another scenario.

Kerala Blasters FC, a club that has seen plenty of ups and downs since its inception, is backed into a corner against a fellow title contender. They are pinned deep into their half and their early perseverance has given way to slight tentativeness.

They are battered by the opposition but their high work-rate and tendency to shoot from outside the box keeps their rivals honest. It doesnโ€™t lead to a victory because they find themselves so far behind in the game, but they donโ€™t lose the fixture either, meaning that when they return to their purest version, they continue their ascent in the points table.

Prima facie, both of these philosophies seem pretty similar. Ivan Vukomanovic and Owen Coyle (Kerala Blasters FC and Jamshedpur FC head coaches, respectively) have drilled into their sides a certain kind of tenacity โ€“ tenacity that doesnโ€™t allow them to wilt under pressure.

More often than lot, it enables them to come through tricky rubbles unscathed. Quite regularly, one of their marquee stars has produced moments of magic โ€“ moments that allow such an approach to be sustainable.

The crux of Jamshedpur FCโ€™s modus operandi is their ability to keep things tight at the back and frustrate opponents. They also hustle and harry their opponents brilliantly, whether it be in their own defensive third or further up front.

That, apart from not giving their rivals the requisite time and space, has led to the Men of Steel conceding the least shots on goal (203) and least shots on target (60) for any side in the Hero ISL this season. Oh, and theyโ€™ve shipped only 21 goals this entire campaign โ€“ a tally no team can match.

This then creates situations where teams go searching for opportunities against Jamshedpur FC, leave the back door open and give up relatively clear-cut chances. Speaking of chances, only FC Goa have created more openings this season than Jamshedpur FC โ€“ a stat that tells you the Men of Steel, despite their defensive solidity, are quite efficient moving forward.

Kerala Blasters, FC, meanwhile, have not been as creative in the attacking third โ€“ in terms of chance creation at least. Yet, they have managed to make the net ripple 34 times in 20 matches, which roughly equates to 1.7 goals per game and is the fifth-highest tally in the league.

What they do better than most sides, though, is keep a clean sheet. In fact, no team (not named Jamshedpur FC) has managed more than the seven shut-outs Kerala Blasters FC have put together.

The only difference then is that Jamshedpur FC seem to have mastered it and have used it to consistently win matches. They have pumped in goals for fun during such stretches and have found inspiration even when things havenโ€™t been as rosy. That argument, by the way, is supported by the 13 victories they have claimed so far.

Kerala Blasters FC, on the other hand, have not been able to translate it into as many victories. There have been encounters where Kerala Blasters FC have put the opposition to the sword. Yet, theyโ€™ve not really made that advantage count โ€“ something illustrated by the seven draws (second-most in the league) they have picked up this season.

So, to put it simply, Jamshedpur FC have found ways to win clutch games, whereas Kerala Blasters FC have found ways to not lose them. Both would, on first glance, sound very similar but are worlds apart. In fact, this could well be the difference between another season of unfulfilled potential or a watershed campaign.

On Friday, Jamshedpur FC and Kerala Blasters FC are set to engross themselves in another titanic Hero ISL semi-final rendition. And, by the looks of it, Kerala Blasters FC have a narrative they would dearly want to change, and the Men of Steel have a narrative they would love to cling on to, just one more time.

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