Ivan Kalyuzhnyi: Can He Conquer ISL?

Image courtesy: ISL Media

Far away from his home province Kharkiv, one of the most affected areas of Ukraine in the Russian invasion, Ivan Kalyuzhnyi announced his arrival in Indian Super League yesterday with a brace against East Bengal. In the yellow and blue colors, which are also the colors of Ukraine’s national flag, Ivan made his mark within 3 minutes of time on the field.

Ivan started the match on the bench and it came as a surprise for the fans as he was a regular figure in the pre-season practice matches. With a great round of applause, Manjappada welcomed Ivan’s entry into the field in the 79th minute. After receiving the ball from Bidya at the half-line in the 82nd minute, Ivan ran onto the opposition goal box and placed the ball in the net after dancing past a few defenders in the process. The Red and Gold defenders expected a through pass back to Bidya from Ivan, however, Ivan had a different plan. Stephen Constantine was visibly disappointed with his defenders as they didn’t attempt a tackle on Ivan to contain the attack. 9 minutes later, he doubled his tally from the match with a stunner from outside the box. A beautiful first-time volley from a cleared corner kick with his left foot was enough to seal the match for the Blasters. The technique was exquisite, and so was the result.

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Image courtesy: ISL Media

After starting his career as Metalist Kharkiv player, he climbed up the ladder and played in UEFA Youth League for Dynamo Kyiv. Later he represented clubs like Metalist 1925 Kharkiv, Rukh Lviv, and FK Oleksandriya before signing for Kerala Blasters. Due to the lack of knowledge about the player, numerous Blaster fans were apprehensive. Few even criticized him for the lack of pace by watching unfiltered training and some practice match videos. Notwithstanding all that, he did find a place in the XI in most of the practice matches and it was a testimonial of the coach’s trust in him. Yesterday, he put all doubts to rest with two invaluable strikes and we may witness even more in the coming days.

In the post-match press conference, coach Ivan Vukamanovic lauded the efforts of Kalyuzhnyi and rated him as a very skillful player. Kerala Blasters lacked a foreign midfielder last season and Vukamanovic is happy that he has the service of such a player in the current season.

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The brace on the debut may fetch him a place in the starting XI of the next matches. He can even be the target man in the goal box for set pieces as he has the height advantage.  His accuracy with both legs adds another dimension to him as a midfielder. Even though making an accurate prediction at the beginning of the season is far-fetched, we can confidently say that he has started the process of establishing a name for himself in India. He came, he saw, and can he conquer?

The image of the article has been taken from ISL’s social media handle.