Kerala Blasters climbed to the top of the Hero Indian Super League (ISL) table with a 1-0 win over Hyderabad FC at the Tilak Maidan stadium in Vasco, Goa on Sunday.
Ivan Vukomanovic’s side who have lost just one game this season moved ahead of Mumbai City FC on goal difference.
Alvaro Vazquez (42’) scored the only goal of a closely-fought encounter between two teams fighting for the top spot in the Hero ISL as the Blasters claimed the crucial three points.
It was Hyderabad FC who came the closest to breaking the deadlock at the start as Edu Garcia’s free-kick was tipped onto the bar by Prabhsukhan Gill in the 9th minute.
In the 24th minute, it was Laxmikant Kattimani’s turn to produce a top save as he spectacularly kept out Pereyra Diaz’s diving header who had been fed by Adrian Luna who had won the ball from Bartholomew Ogbeche.
The deadlock was eventually broken three minutes before the interval when Vazquez sent a thumping effort past the goalkeeper after collecting a loose ball from a long throw-in that Hyderabad FC had failed to clear.
Ogbeche had a chance to level the scores almost instantly but his shot from a corner went just wide in first-half stoppage time as the Blasters held on to their advantage.
Both managers made a change each at the break as Sahil Tavora replaced Hitesh Sharma for Hyderabad FC, while Harmanjot Khabra came on for Sandeep Singh for the Kerala Blasters FC.
Hyderabad FC started the second half on the front foot but were almost caught on the counter-attack in the 50th minute as they slipped into a 1 vs 2 situation and just about managed to avert the danger.
Aniket Jadhav then came close to equalising for Hyderabad FC three minutes later when he received the ball on the left, cut back in on his right and fired at goal only to see it sail inches over the target.
Hyderabad FC came close again in the 60th minute when Ogbeche shot after a cleverly taken free-kick. His shot took a deflection and rolled just wide of the post with Gill a mere spectator.
Vukomanovic brought on Nishu Kumar in place of Sahal Abdul Samad with 12 minutes to play with an aim to see the game through and the Blasters had Jessel Carneiro to thank for preserving the advantage after he cleared off the line from a Javier Siverio shot in the 80th minute.
Hyderabad FC pushed hard for an equaliser as the game entered five minutes of stoppage time. The game then went past the 100-minute mark after Carneiro got injured and had to be stretched off.
Kerala Blasters FC almost added a second when Kattimani made a mess of a shot hit straight of him before managing to keep it out with his knee.
After 111 minutes of football, the referee blew for full-time as the Blasters went top of the table for the first time since 2014 with ten or more games played during a season.
Hyderabad FC stayed in third just one point behind the Blasters and Mumbai City FC.
Vukomanovic’s men are back in action on Wednesday when they face Odisha FC. Hyderabad take on Chennaiyin FC in their next match .
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