Kerala Blasters gave their fans the best possible start imaginable in the 2015 season of the Indian Super League, firing in three goals against NorthEast United at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Kochi.
The more you say about the fans at the Nehru Stadium in Kochi, it will not feel enough, so the least the Blasters players can do to repay that incredible support is smash in those goals.
[Get the highlights of the match HERE]
For 45 minutes of the first half, it looked like being another one of those Kerala Blasters games, where they stay strong at the back – Peter Taylor decided to go with three centre-backs, with Peter Ramage, Marcus Williams and Bruno Peroni all having good games, while the two wingbacks Rahul Bheke and CK Vineeth weren't too shabby either -- but fail to show enough imagination in the final third.
However, Peter Taylor made one crucial change in the second half, bringing on the pace of Sanchez Watt for Chris Dagnall, who had an Iain Hume-like first half, without really threatening the goal.
The message from Taylor, whose decision to play with a 5-3-2 formation was vindicated, at halftime was clear: "Enough of the slow approach, go right at them, use your pace, make full use of the setpieces, increase that pressure and see how NorthEast cope."
The answer to that final question was -- not too well.
With plenty of possession, the Kerala Blasters pinned NorthEast United in their own half, and made sure those dead ball chances were taken advantage of.
Rahul Bheke, the man who came in at the last moment to the starting lineup, owing to an injury during the warm-ups, was the catalyst, with his Rory Delap-like long throws causing havoc in the NorthEast defence.
The first one came in the 49th minute, as the Blasters won the first ball from the long throw, before a mishit bicycle kick from Vineeth fell kindly to Josu, who showed all that technical ability you learn in La Masia to pummel the ball into the top corner with his left foot from the edge of the box.
And the second came in the 68th minute, with Bruno Perone winning the first header at the near post, with his knock-on, falling to Rafi in the middle. The local lad made no mistake with his header, burying it in the back of the net, to turn up the volume to previously unknown levels.
The Blasters weren't done treating their fans, though, as four minutes later, Sanchez Watt scored from as direct a move as they come.
A goalkick from Stephen Bywater – who was brilliant in goal by the way, organising the defence and providing an imposing presence – was headed on by Rafi, with Watt running onto the ball and finishing through the goalkeeper Rehenesh's legs.
While NorthEast answered one back, with a delightful goal from Nicolas Velez with about nine minutes remaining, the yellow army were never going to be denied a big celebration tonight.