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ISL 2018-19: Kerala Blasters' poor start leaves fans dejected

03:39 GMT 13/11/2018
Kerala Blasters FC Goa
The Men in Yellow's poor start has seen the attendance numbers in Kochi dwindle...

For the entirety of Kerala Blasters' Indian Super League (ISL) match against FC Goa in Kochi on Sunday, it looked as if the visitors could always better the hosts in all areas of the field. 

Sergio Lobera's side did not have to be at their scintillating best to beat a sub-par Kerala Blasters team that looked confused at the back and clueless up front. Assistant coach Thangboi Singto had rightly pointed out Goa's frailties at the back but his side failed to take advantage.

Members of the Kerala Blasters fan group Manjappada were left dejected and frustrated after the game. The team was off to a similar start last season under Rene Meulensteen, with seven points from their first seven games. 

"We are totally disappointed. FC Goa are a very good side, no question about it. They are on the best teams in the league. But we could have played better against them. As fans, we expect better performances from the team," Manjappada secretary Somu Joseph told Goal

"As James said, ISL is not won after six or seven matches. Unless there is a turnaround in the next two matches, the expectations will come down. People are disappointed and the football is frustrating. If the team's performance does not improve in the next two matches, we don't know how the fans will respond."

The Yellow Army has drawn two and lost two matches at home and the attendance figures have been dwindling. 31,166 people watched their first home match against Mumbai City and the numbers since that game are 29,962 (vs Delhi Dynamos), 28,916 (vs Bengaluru FC) and 21,962 (vs FC Goa). 

Manjappada had protested the refereeing in ISL and have no qualms about letting the club know of their demand for improvement. "We have certain plans. We are looking into all the ifs and buts. The emotions of the fans have changed, they are looking up to Manjappada now. We (Manjappada) are always the voice of the fans," Somu said. 

FC Goa head coach Sergio Lobera has always been focused on playing an attacking football. The league's best striker in Ferran Corominas was unleashed at Sandesh Jhingan and Anas Edathodika and in his league debut for the team, the latter could not put in an inspiring display. Jhingan's aggression has worked well when complemented with the composed nature of Anas in the past but a lethal Coro outdid both players. 

Young Mohammad Rakip has struggled at right back and the youngster was tasked with marking Coro during a corner in the 11th minute. The set-piece was too deep but the cross back into the box was glanced into the net by the striker who had easily lost his marker. 

Just before half-time, the league's leading goal scorer picked up the ball near the half-way line and was allowed to dribble forward unopposed. The defence backed off for seven whole seconds before he calmly curled the ball into the corner of the net from the edge of the box. 

Both Anas and Jhingan lost Manvir Singh inside the box during a corner-kick as the Indian forward cooly headed in from 12 yards for Goa's third. It all seemed so easy against a defence that was talked about as one of the best in the league before the season started. 

As with every fanbase, a section of Kerala Blasters supporters are also unsure of whether David James is the right man to take their team forward. A lot of fans, however, admire his commitment towards the club and trust the English coach who took the team to the final as a player-manager in 2014.

"We have a really good team this season. David James has failed as a coach so far. We don't know if it's his tactics or that of the assistant coach but it has been a failure. He is a good motivator and could bring the team together but as a coach, he has not met the expectations," Manjappada member and one of their social media manager Manu Prathap told Goal

"In my opinion, this is my favourite Blasters 'team' from five seasons. We have a lot of youngsters, fully fit players and experienced ones like Cyril Kali. Change the coach, keep the team and develop these players. I am not disappointed with the signings," he added. 

Salman, another one of the group's media admins, thinks differently. "We have gone through worse situations, everybody knows how our second season turned out. David James is committed to the club so we (should) trust him. Players may be out of form and we don't know if there are issues in the squad. We do feel (there are issues) when we see the attitude of some players as there is no coordination."

As Sunday's match neared the full-time whistle, Sandesh Jhingan picked out Nikola Krcmarevic inside the box for a consolation goal. The goal was celebrated by the fans because goals were what they had come to see and not what had transpired in the ninety minutes before that.