Brown’s winner keeps Kerala’s playoff hopes alive

Kerala Blasters FC kept their hopes of making the Hero Indian Super League (ISL) 2017-18 playoffs alive after beating NorthEast United FC 1-0 at the Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium in Guwahati on Saturday. Wes Brown scored the only goal of the game two minutes before the half-hour mark.

NorthEast looked good at the start and had their first attempt on goal in the eighth minute when Lalrindika Ralte passed the ball towards Danilo Lopes, who skied his shot from range high over the crossbar. He had another chance two minutes later after Maic Sema squared a pass to him. This time though, Lopes failed to generate enough power in the shot to trouble the goalkeeper.

The Highlanders then saw their woodwork rattle in the 20th minute after some defensive lapses. Nirmal Chettri’s attempted clearance ended up hitting the NorthEast crossbar before CK Vineeth followed in on the rebound but didn’t make the cleanest of contact with the ball.

The Blasters went in front just eight minutes later after a well-executed corner by Jackichand Singh found Wes Brown unmarked in the box. The former England international rose highest to nod in the corner and make it 1-0 for Kerala.

NorthEast had a chance to equalise seven minutes before half-time when Ralte found Lopes from a set-piece. The Brazilian, however, couldn’t direct the ball goal-wards to the disappointment of his teammates.

Ralte then had a chance himself soon after, which he drilled hard and low straight at goal. But his effort was just whiskers away from the target as Kerala breathed a sigh of relief. The last opportunity of the half went the hosts’ way when Sema played Lopes through on goal before the latter’s shot was saved by Kerala goalkeeper to ensure the visitors took a 1-0 advantage into the break.

It took NorthEast eight minutes in the second half to fashion their first chance when a ball deflected off Sema and went to substitute John Mosquera, who leaped and headed on target only for Paul Rachubka to collect safely in goal.

NorthEast went on to strike Kerala’s crossbar in the 72nd minute courtesy of a venomous effort from range by Ralte, which shook the frame before finding its way back to him. Ralte’s attempted bicycle kick from the rebound though was not strong enough to beat the goalkeeper.

Dimitar Berbatov then laid off the ball for Gudjon Baldvinsson to turn and shoot from inside the box. The Iceland striker’s low strike on goal, however, was saved excellently by TP Rehenesh, who used his legs to good effect.

The Highlanders’ last opportunity for an equaliser came four minutes from full time after Lalrempuia Fanai delivered a wonderful ball into the box for Mosquera. The Colombian forward, however, was put off by Sandesh Jhingan, who did just about enough to ensure Mosquera didn’t have an easy effort on goal as Kerala stayed in contention for a playoff spot.

MATCH AWARDS

Club Award: Kerala Blasters FC

Swift Limitless Player: Courage Pekuson

DHL Winning Pass of the Match: Jackichand Singh

Amul Fittest Player: Maic Sema

Emerging Player: Gursimrat Singh

Hero of the Match: Wes Brown

Watch the match highlights here:

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