Kerala Blasters strode into the final of the Indian Super League (ISL) after a 10-man Delhi Dynamos, in a shocking display, missed thrice in the penalty shootout in their second-leg semifinal in Delhi on Wednesday.
Watched by Liverpool legend Ian Rush, Kerala Blasters won the match 3-0 on penalties after the regulation time ended 2-1 in favour of the home side.
Dynamos' inspirational skipper Folrent Malouda, who otherwise played his heart out in the regulation plus extra time, shot one way above the bar, much to the disbelief of all at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium to leave the hosts trailing in the shootout.
As the scoreline read 2-1 (2-2 aggregate) in favour of Dynamos after 120 minutes of enthralling football, the match went into shootout. Taking the first shot, Josu Currais put Blasters on their way as he easily beat Antonio Doblas. Then came the turn of Malouda, and what followed, is something he would like to forget in a hurry.
Doblas brought Delhi back into the game when he stopped Antonio German's attempt with a diving left-handed save. But Delhi were again let down, this time by Bruno Pelissari, who, like his captain, hit it high above the horizontal.
Kerven Belfort kept his cool and took Kerala closer to the final by calmly slotting one past Doblas.
Emerson Gomes de Moura's shot was met with a brilliant save by Sandip Nandy, the Kerala goalkeeper making amends for his two blunders that led to goals in the regulation time.
Mohammed Rafique then came in and hit it low and perfectly into the bottom left corner to seal the issue in favour of Blasters.
However, the absolute shocker of the match was undoubtedly Malouda's miss as it was least expected from a man of his experience.
In a repeat of the inaugural edition final two years ago, Kerala Blasters will take on Atletico de Kolkata in the summit showdown in Kochi on Sunday.
Earlier, Marcelinho put Dynamos ahead with a 21st minute strike. Blasters hit back immediately through Duckens Nazon in the 24th minutes. However, Ruben Gonzalez Rocha (45+6) ensured Dynamos went into the breather with a 2-1 match advantage, by finding the back of the net with a header.
After a rather quiet start for the first 20 minutes, the game picked up pace and Marcelinho, the leading scorer of the league so far, struck his 10th goal when he unleashed a left-footed volley in an empty net to leave Blasters custodian Sandip Nandy stranded. Marcos Tebar played a long ball towards Richard Gadze and Kadio's clearance was met by Marcelinho's shot.