Kerala Blasters boost semis hopes after 2-1 win against Pune City
Kerala Blasters FC moved closer towards a semis spot after overcoming FC Pune City 2-1 at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Kochi on Friday evening. Over 51,000 home fans cheered on with Duckens Nazon opening the scoring in the seventh minute. Captain Aaron Hughes doubled the lead in the 57th minute before Anibal Rodriguez pulled one back for the visitors late into stoppage time.
Kerala Blasters showed positive intent right from the outset with Kervens Belfort, CK Vineeth and Nazon combining well to build up attacks. And it was just a matter of time before the Blasters scored and they did so in the seventh minute. Nazon latched on to Dharmaraj Ravanan’s backpass and then nutmegged a defender to put it past Edel Bete. The Blasters didn’t keep their foot off the pedal as Mohammed Rafi unleashed an effort on goal soon after.
The Blasters ruled the roost in the first 20 minutes or so. Mohammed Sissoko at last took some control of the Pune midfield and started creating chances. Anibal shot wide for the Stallions, while Nazon hit the side-netting at the other end. The end-to-end stuff ensued with Arata Izumi heading it over in what was Pune’s best chance to equalise in the opening period.
The Stallions had clearly come back into the game and could have got the equaliser with Pitu curling in a free kick. Sissoko’s header was clearly looping into the net and Izumi tried to ensure it did, but in the process he happened to deflect it wide. CK Vineeth immediately had the chance to double the lead but Bete made the crucial save as Kerala went in leading 1-0 at half-time.
It was a fiery start to the second half with Nazon, Belfort, and Momar Ndoye all having their shots blocked in front of goal. Belfort had another chance soon after on the counter but he only managed to pass it towards Bete. Belfort was involved again, this time as a provider as he set up Rafi to fire it in but it was Bete who stood tall pulling out an excellent save.
The inevitable second goal arrived close to the hour mark with Hughes heading in Vineeth’s lobbed ball off a corner. Kerala had another look at the goal with Bete making a fingertip save off Antonio German’s long ranger. Pune’s frustration increased as Kerala kept the ball to themselves and piled on the pressure. The Blasters would have easily been up by 4-5 goals if not for the heroics of Bete.
With the final few minutes to go, Pune got their best chance of the game as Dramane Traore fired it from point-blank range but goalkeeper Sandip Nandy was in place to make the save. The Stallions managed to pull one back through Anibal’s free kick in the fifth minute of stoppage time but it was too little and too late as they stumbled to their sixth defeat of the season, compromising their semis hopes a great deal.
Club award: Kerala Blasters FC
Amul Fittest Player of the Match: CK Vineeth
DHL Winning Pass of the Match: CK Vineeth
Maruti Suzuki Swift Moment of the Match: Edel Bete
ISL Emerging Player of the Match: Sandesh Jhingan
Hero of the Match: Aaron Hughes