ISL: Jackichand, Vineeth star in Kerala Blasters’ win

After having scored a goal each, the contest seemed headed for a draw before a bolt from the blue - C. K. Vineeth’s stunning left-footed strike - sealed the deal for the visitor at the Balewadi Stadium.

C. K. Vineeth scored a stunning goal late in the second half to hand Kerala Blasters the victory.   -  H. Vibhu (File Photo)

FC Pune City did all the hard running and attacked the rival goal manned by Subhasish Chowdhury from various angles, yet ended up losing 2-1 to Kerala Blasters FC at the Balewadi Stadium. After having scored a goal each, the contest seemed headed for a draw before a bolt from the blue - C. K. Vineeth’s stunning left-footed strike - sealed the deal for the visitor. It was a thundering shot on the turn that beat the goal-keeper Vishal Kaith, hitting the top right-hand corner of the net. Kaith moved to cover the angle and clawed at the air as the ball looped in from high above his head.

Match Centre

Kerala had taken the lead in the second half when Jackichand Singh silenced the home fans with a crisp right-footed shot into the net, but Pune levelled in the 79th minute when Emiliano Alfaro convert a penalty-kick coolly. Although the three goals did not do justice to thrills and spills on the pitch, fittingly two of the best goals were scored by the visitor, transforming a stalemate into a thrilling victory.

Facing the heat from right through the first half as FC Pune City went all-out in search for a goal, Kerala went ahead against the run of play in the 58th minute. Jackchand Singh brought the smile back on the face of chief coach David James by picking his spot in goal, slamming the ball high into top left corner with a stylish right-footed strike, far beyond custodian Kaith’s reach.

Emiliano Alfaro equalised for the home team via an effective penalty that struck the left corner of the net. The foul that resulted in the goal wasn’t very convincing, however. Subhashish was punished for a foul he did not commit; the Kerala custodian stretched out to grab the ball, the referee saw the former go sprawling and skidding across the line and signalled to the spot, negating a demonstration by the goalkeeper that he had not attempted to hinder the forward.

The respite was brief, as Vineeth poured water on the hopes of the home team securing a point.

Strangely, the eventual winner enjoyed more support at kick-off than the home team. Fans in bright yellow were vocal, shouting players’ names. The stands filled up in time with Pune supporters, waving purple and orange flags and cheering for the team’s in-form goalkeeper, whose miscue in the fifth minute presented Kerala with a good chance of scoring an early goal.

Iain Hume relayed the ball in Vineeth’s direction, but the latter did not anticipate and the ball rolled away.

Valuable saves

Marcelino, the Pune captain, replied with searing runs down the left flank, having been employed in a wide position by coach Popovic. The Brazilian chased shadows under the lights with tricky footwork and pace.

Diego Carlos fired at the goal after a sudden stop and cut in, but goalkeeper Subhasish came up with a reflex block after a sideways dive. Subhasish watched a long ranger by Baljit Sahni sail over the crosspiece, then reacted in time under the bar to block a tap-in by Emiliano Alfaro off a Marcelino free-kick.

Another opportunity arose when Diego Carlos slipped free and sent a lob over the harassed backline. Alfaro timed his run to perfection, chased down the ball and volleyed goalwards with a shot on the run with his right foot. The screamer by the Uruguayan looked headed for goal, but the eventually ended in the stands.

Alfaro was on target in the second half, but the collective effort wasn’t enough to deny Kerala a rousing away victory, its fifth in 14 league games and 20 points.

Pune, with its fifth defeat, has 22 points.


Kerala Blasters FC 2 (Jackichand Singh 58, C. K. Vineeth 90) bt FC Pune City 1 (Emiliano Alfaro 79 penalty)

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