In the first three games at home, Kerala Blasters could only muster a single goal. The games lacked intensity and at times were a damp squib. However, one positive which they could take was that they had let in just a single goal.
In their very first away fixture, however, Kerala’s soft core was exposed. Paul Rachubka, who looked solid in the opening three matches, committed silly errors in a personal battle with Laxmikant Kattimani to take the honours of who the worst goalkeeper is.
The Men in Yellow deployed Arata Izumi in defensive midfield to track the runs of Brandon Fernandes, Mandar Rao Dessai, Manuel Lanzarote and Ferran Corominas. The 35-year-old last played in the I-League second division and certainly looked off the pace. He could barely manage to put in a tackle or two in his role as an interceptor.
The other options they have in the central area are Milan Singh, who hasn’t seen much game time, and was poor after being brought on, and Siam Hanghal, who failed to make an impression in the last match.
Courage Pekuson probably has no idea what his role in the team is. He was seen running aimlessly without having closed down his opponents and left Arata to do the defensive work. Speaking of defensive work, Kerala's midfield on the day just made up the numbers on the field. Not only were they physically run over but Izumi and co. could not even commit fouls to halt Goa's momentum.
Against Goa, Rene Meulensteen included Loken Meetei in his starting line-up. The 20-year-old midfielder last plied his trade for Real Kashmir in the second division and looked clueless in his time on the pitch.
However, the worst culprits were Sandesh Jhingan and Nemanja Lakic-Pesic. Coro was allowed to score two of his three goals by capitalizing on poor positioning by the two centre-backs. He was allowed to evade between the two and hit the Blasters twice within the space of minutes. The two defenders were made to look rank amateurs by Coro’s brilliance while Lanzarote troubled Lalruatthara all evening. Rino Anto too was horrible in the first half especially as he allowed Narayan Das to make forward runs at will and supply the assist to Lanzarote's opener.
With Iain Hume injured and Dimitar Berbatov straining his calf in the first five minutes, the only foreigner available on the bench was Wes Brown. Despite the horrible defending by his two centre-backs, at no point did Meulensteen opt to bring the former Manchester United defender on the field which raised questions as to whether the player is fit in the first place.
When Karan Sawhney is your option on the bench, you know that the squad assembled over the summer is not a good one. The Mumbai striker has hardly been amongst goals in his career and you have got to wonder how Kerala didn’t sign eight foreign players in the first place.
Ugandan attacker Keziron Kizito is expected to join the team officially after January 15th and by then the club would have already completed 11 games out of their 18.
Meulensteen stated that the defensive issues in his team shouldn’t become a trend in the long run. Interestingly, they next face a team in NorthEast United FC, who haven’t scored in three of their four matches.
They couldn’t have asked for a better fixture at this point in the season.