Sahal Abdul Samad gives Kerala Blasters FC the advantage in finely-poised semi-final

Sahal Abdul Samad scored the only goal of the match as Kerala Blasters FC beat Jamshedpur FC 1-0 in the first leg of the Hero Indian Super League (ISL) semi-final at the PJN stadium in Margao, Goa on Friday.

After a cagey start, Sahal (38’) broke the deadlock with a neat finish as the Blasters who could have added to their lead held on to take a first-leg advantage in the two-legged tie.

Jamshedpur FC who won the League Winners’ Shield at the same venue on Monday began brightly and created the first opening of the semi-final when Seiminlen Doungel headed a free-kick from goalkeeper TP Rehenesh in Daniel Chima Chukwu’s path. The Nigerian who has been in red-hot form could only find the side netting in the 10th minute.

Chukwu had another chance ten minutes later to put the Men of Steel in front when he collected a loose ball after Pronay Halder had pinched the ball high up the pitch but the former SC East Bengal man fired his shot wide after running into space inside the box.

Jamshedpur FC then had captain Peter Hartley to thank for preventing the Kerala Blasters FC from taking the lead in the 25th minute when he headed away an Adrian Luna corner that threatened to sneak into the goal from over Rehenesh’s head.

Hartley though read the danger and headed it away almost from under the crossbar.

The Blasters though broke through in the 38th minute when a measured Alvaro Vazquez pass was headed into Sahal’s path by Ricky Lallawmawma who couldn't make a more telling connection after being at full stretch.

But Sahal steadied himself and lofted the ball over the onrushing Rehenesh to give Ivan Vukomanovic’s men the lead.

Kerala Blasters FC went into the break with their noses in front after a fairly even first half.

The second half got off to a slow start as both teams tried to find their rhythm. Jamshedpur FC then had a goal ruled out for offside in the 56th minute.

Kerala Blasters FC almost doubled their lead three minutes later when Luna’s stunning free-kick was pushed onto the woodwork by Rehenesh who would have been relieved to see the ball bounce out from the post.

Owen Coyle brought on Jordan Murray in place of Chukwu and later Ishan Pandita and Alex Lima in place of Jitendra Singh and Greg Stewart to rescue the match.

Pandita who has a habit of scoring late goals nearly drew Jamshedpur FC level in the 88th minute when he latched onto a partially cleared corner inside the box. But his powerful shot whistled past the post as the chance went begging.

Kerala Blasters FC held on to win the first leg 1-0 as they ended Jamshedpur FC’s seven-match winning streak.

Coyle’s men have it all to do in the second leg on Tuesday as they look to reach their first-ever Hero ISL final.

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