Kerala Blasters FC moved to within a point of the semi-final qualification with a convincing 3-1 win over Mumbai City FC in the Hero Indian Super League (ISL) match at the Tilak Maidan stadium in Vasco, Goa on Wednesday.
The win lifts them into the top four two points ahead of Mumbai City FC with just one game to play in the league phase.
Sahal Abdul Samad (19’) got the Blasters going with an early goal before Alvaro Vazquez’s brace (45’(P), 60’) put them in command. Diego Mauricio (71’ (P)) restored hope for the defending champions but Ivan Vukomanovic’s side held on to claim three precious points.
However, the game could have had a completely different complexion had Mumbai City FC been awarded a penalty in the 7th minute for what looked like a clear foul on Brad Inman.
But the Blasters took control of proceedings and went close five minutes later when Sandeep Singh who latched onto an Adrian Luna pass fired it into the side-netting from a tight angle.
Kerala Blasters FC made the breakthrough in the 19th minute when Sahal danced his way into space on the edge of the box before sending a low shot past Nawaz who was wrongfooted thanks to Sahal’s disguised effort.
The game got a bit physical as the half wore as tackles flew in from both sides.
But Blasters who had seemed more threatening all half won a penalty in the 45th minute which was converted by Vazquez to give his team a 2-0 half-time lead.
Des Buckingham reverted to a back three by bringing on Vikram Partap Singh for Mandar Rao Dessai for the second half but the Blasters continued to look sharp. Luna forced Nawaz into a sharp save after a clever move ended with him shooting from distance.
Kerala Blasters FC then added a third goal on the hour mark when Nawaz completely missed a back pass from Mourtada Fall to allow Vazquez a simple tap in in the empty net.
Mumbai City FC were thrown a lifeline when substitute Diego Mauricio was fouled inside the penalty area in the 69th minute. Mauricio stepped up to convert to bring the Islanders back in the match.
Mumbai City FC began to throw numbers forward trying to reduce the deficit and left themselves open at the back. Rahul KP almost profited as he headed his header from a Luna cross just wide of the target.
The Blasters almost restored their three-goal cushion three minutes later when Luna’s free-kick had to be tipped onto the bar by Nawaz. The goalkeeper was then alert to save Vazquez’s effort on the rebound.
Mumbai City FC threw the kitchen sink at the Blasters but couldn’t find a goal.
The Islanders now face Hyderabad FC in their next match on Saturday. Failure to win that match will send the Kerala Blasters FC through to the semi-finals even before they face FC Goa in their last match on Sunday.
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