Kerala Blasters' search for a much-needed win in the Indian Super League (ISL) ended fruitlessly yet again as they were trumped at their own den by a listless FC Pune City on Friday.
The Men in Yellow cannot win for love or for money right now and are all but out of the running for a play-off spot. In contrast, the season began brightly with the team beating ATK in Kolkata but have not won ever since, going 10 games without a victory.
That is not the sort of run that a team looking to finish in the play-off spot wants to go through. Coach David James' tactics and team selection have been questioned and rightly so.
He has chopped and changed throughout the season without any consistency. Of course, injuries and poor decisions have hampered Kerala Blasters. But these are factors beyond a team's control and something that is common in football.
The team has failed to finish their chances in crunch situations and have struggled creatively. The players are also responsible for this.
All these malaises were evident against Pune City as well. The Stallions, themselves, are going through a terrible season and also had just one win in their kitty prior to this match. But they started the game well and showed more intent to take the initiative.
And that came in the 20th minute when Ashique Kuruniyan, a Kerala-born lad, played in Marcelinho who saw his shot take a lucky deflection and go in. That was all Pune required as they held on to their lead as a hungry dog would hold on to a meaty bone.
In fact, Ashique was a bright spot for Pune and gave Sandesh Jhingan, deployed as a right-back, a lot of grief. The experienced defender, also the captain of the team, was second-best against the youngster all night and was beaten both on skill and pace. Iain Hume, starting against his former team, was industrious as usual but his lack of match fitness was only too apparent.
When they started to tire in the second half, Pradhyum Reddy was able to bring on Marko Stankovic and the Austrian's tenacity helped them hold off the Blasters. He also had a couple of good chances.
Kerala, to their credit, did push for an equaliser in the second half and came close late on when Kamaljit Singh saved a header from Jhingan and then when Vineeth hit the post with a shot from an acute angle.
But the concerning fact is that of late, Kerala struggle to impose themselves on a team and take charge of a match. Their finishing has been a let down and there is no proper system or plan of attack. It's just hoof the ball and pray!
Pune City were not brilliant themselves in attack, indicating how low in quality the game was. In fact, the win only takes them to a point off Kerala's tally. It certainly was a bottom-of-the-table tussle.