Kerala Blasters got their home campaign off to a winning start thanks to the combined work of their substitutes, Andrew Barisic and Milagres Gonsalves, as they beat FC Goa by a solitary goal in the first ISL game at Jawaharlal Nehru stadium on Thursday.
The all-important moment of the match came in the 64th minute. Barisic made a superb run on the right flank and sent in a brilliant ball across the face of the goal. Gonsalves, who was waiting unmarked inside the box, had the simplest of jobs to tap it into the net and send 50,000 fans in the stadium into raptures.
This was Blasters’ second win in ISL which sees them jump to fifth spot in the points table with seven points from six matches. Goa remain at the bottom of the table with just four points from six games they played.
Even before the kick-off, Blasters received a body blow as their prolific striker Iain Hume was ruled out due to injury. The void left by Hume was huge and it took Blasters some time to settle down in the match.
Before the start of the game, both managers, David James of Blasters and Zico of Goa, had rued the fact that their strikers weren’t able to convert the chances. Their fears were not misplaced as both teams missed several chances.
The first move of the match was made by the home side. In the third minute, Stephen Pearson released Ishfaq Ahmed with a brilliant through ball on the left, but unfortunately the Kashmiri midfielder failed to find Sabeeth in the middle and his cross went straight to Goa’s Czech goal keeper Jan Seda. In the ninth minute, Goa won a free-kick from the left of the box which was taken by Goa’s Portugal for ward Bruno Pinheiro. It found Gregory whose header went just over the bar. It was one of those rare mo ments in the first half when Goa threatened to score.
Kerala came close to scoring in the 18th minute. FC Goa’s Narayan Das made a horrible mistake when he failed to clear a long ball and Blasters striker Sabeeth was quick to pounce on it. But before Sabeeth could take advantage Das recovered and averted the danger with a sliding tackle.
Pearson showed great skills in the 41st minute to dispossess Goa’s marquee play er Robert Pires and passed the ball to Sabeeth who went dancing down the right to cut the ball back to his captain Penn Orgi. Orgi lobbed it back to Pearson at the far post but the Scottish midfielder failed to head it home.
The biggest chance for Blasters came in the added time of the first half. Pear son was again the thick of action as he broke the Goan defence and passed the ball to Orgi who crossed it back to Pear son. The midfielder, instead of shooting, passed it to Sabeeth whose shot hit the bar and went over.
In the second half, Trevor Morgan made two keen changes in the space of two minutes. He withdrew Sabeeth and introduced Milagres Gonsalves in the 56th minute. Australian forward Andrew Barisic also came in two minutes later.
This move paid off for the Blasters.