Kerala Blasters FC defeated league champions Jamshedpur FC by 2-1 aggregate to reach the final of the Indian Super League (ISL) for the first time since 2016. Sachal Abdul Samad scored the lone goal to give Kerala Blasters FC a victory in the Indian Super League in the first leg. Hyderabad FC defeated Kerala Blasters FC 3-1 in the shootout after the game ended 1-1 in the regulation and extra time. League Shield winners Jamshedpur FC needed another goal to send the match into spare time, but another strong display from Kerala Blasters FCs defence ensured that the game ended 1-1. 

 As soon as a spot-kick from Halicharan Narzary sent the Blasters keeper Prabhsukhan Gill the wrong way, FC Hyderabad dugout, supporters at the stands cheered and cheered, and heartbreak set in for passionate Kerala Blasters fans, who returned to the stadium for their first match in Indian Super League in two years. Sreenidi Deccan needed one point to seal the title, but Lalromawia Lalromawia’s first-half hat-trick was enough to hand League leaders Kerala Gokulam the first defeat of the season.

As for Gokulam Kerala, their 21-match unbeaten streak ended; they were only three points ahead of Mohammedan SC ahead of the last match Sunday. Now, nothing can stop Gokulam Kerala, a side that has won two I-League titles in its five years and is a league champion for the women’s side. With Gokulam Kerala beating Mohammedan Sporting FC 2-1 in the final match of Saturdays season, becoming the first team to defend their I-League title, the coastal state now has teams dominating every tier of domestic soccer — the I-League champions, women’s league champions, the winners of the national title, the aka Santosh Trophy, and runners-up of the highest tier, Indian Super League (ISL).

Mohammedan Sporting, a heavyweight of a region, came into the game with an optimism that they would take a better challenge against an in-form Kerala team, mainly as they had plenty of fans backing them from the stands. Three minutes into Sreenidi’s second goal of the night, things went from bad to worse for League leaders Gokulam Kerala, with Lalromawia scoring an incredible hat-trick in the first half. Two minutes later, substitute Sourav thumped home the rebound after Aryan Lamba had denied Jourdaine Fletcher, but the flag went up once more, summarising the evening for Gokulam.

As a result, mass-production of players ceased. Between 2012 and 2016, no players from the region made the national team, and even after that, just a few donned the national team colours. Their dramatic fall from grace was no surprise. “After the golden years, we experienced a period where no people from the stands were interested in local football,” George adds. “There was no incentive, employment, clubs, or contests.” That’s why it crashed.”