Sahal Abdul Samad's superb goal in the first half gave Blasters a 1-0 victory in the first leg of the first semifinal of the Indian Super League ISL at the Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Fatorda.
The 24-year-old's talent had never been in doubt. It has finally blossomed this season, much to the delight of the management and fans of Kerala Blasters. He gave them plenty to cheer about on Friday night.
The victory might seem the narrowest of leads going into the second leg against a formidable opponent, but Blasters is unlikely to complain. The same cannot be said of the Jamshedpur fans though. They must have felt disappointed watching their team wasting as many as three chances before Blasters scored.
The first two of those opportunities went to Daniel Chima Chukwu. In the 10th minute, Seiminlen Doungel had set him up with a header, but he missed the target. Ten minutes later, the Nigerian could have made amends, but he failed to convert yet again.
Jamshedpur continued to press forward and was clearly looking the side that was more likely to break the deadlock, for which another chance came in the 34th minute. But Mobashir Rahman, who had come in after Doungel was injured, put the ball wide, following a fine free-kick taken by Greg Stewart.
Four minutes later Sahal’s moment arrived. On the counter-attack, Alvaro Vazquez, from his own territory, lofted a long ball, which Ricky Lallawmawma could not head out of danger. Sahal deftly put it high above the advancing goalkeeper, T.P. Rehenesh, into the empty net.
In the second half though, Rehenesh got a nice touch just in time to prevent what would have been another spectacular goal from Adrian Luna and one that would have been disastrous for Jamshedpur.
The second leg will be played on March 15.