Blasters downs nine-man Goa, jumps to fourth spot

Vineeth who came in as a substitute in the 79th minute, struck the Kerala Blasters’s match-winner against last year’s runner-up FC Goa in the dying minutes of the rough Indian Super League game than ran for nearly 100 minutes and which reduced the visitor to nine men for the last 20 minutes.

CK Vineeth, Rino Anto, Kerala Blasters

Returning players Rinto Anto and CK Vineeth celebrate with Kerala Blasters team-mates Sandip Nandy and Mohammed Rafi.   -  ISL/Sportzpics

There was some doubt whether this man would play this game. C.K. Vineeth was meant to have gone for an ISL photo-shoot on Tuesday after Bengaluru FC’s fantastic run in the recent AFC Cup. But apparently there were some discussions late last night and the Kerala player found a place in the squad today.

> MATCH CENTRE

Thankfully so too, for Vineeth who came in as a substitute in the 79th minute, struck the Kerala Blasters’s match-winner against last year’s runner-up FC Goa in the dying minutes of the rough Indian Super League game than ran for nearly 100 minutes and which reduced the visitor to nine men for the last 20 minutes.

That crucial goal, which brought the home side its third victory this season, carried the Blasters from the seventh spot to fourth in the eight-team table.

It was Goa which took the lead through a Rafael Coelho header in the ninth minute but the ninth-round encounter changed dramatically in the second half with two red cards coming the visitor’s way, one of which brought the Blasters a penalty kick.

With the home boys desperately pushing forward, there was a bit of deflection after Rafique’s attempt in a crowded box shortly after the hour mark. The ball attempted to kiss Goan captain Gregory Arnolin’s hand as he stood near the goalline. The New Zealand referee Nick Waldron was quick to flash the red card, sending off Arnolin, and awarded a penalty to Blasters. Belfort converted it with a rising shot in the 48th minute as the stadium erupted in joy.

Belfort, who had been not been his sparkling self in the opening session, sprung to life after that as the Blasters tried to make the most of the man advantage. And with fresh legs also coming in, Antonio German for Michael Chopra and Kerala’s C.K. Vineeth for Mohammed Rafique, the home side looked good for another goal.

Defender Prieto raced up and down the left flank and sent in crosses to Belfort. German, Rafique and Belfort all had chances but the crucial goal remained elusive for a long time.

And in the 81st minute, the game took another huge turn with Goan midfielder Richarlyson Felisbino, its man of the match in the previous game against Delhi Dynamos, receiving his second yellow card for bringing down Vineeth.

Zico, the Goan coach who had spoken about his team being treated unfairly by referees in two earlier games, was an angry man all through the second half.

Steve Coppell’s boys dominated the opening session with a lovely one-touch play. But Brazilian forward Rafael Coelho’s headed goal, from a nicely-taken Richarlyson Felisbino freekick, shocked the host. Coelho’s dipping header went in through Blasters’ tall goalkeeper Graham Stack’s legs as the Englishmen bent down oddly to stop the danger.

The first half was a story of misses for the home side. Kervens Belfort had two good chances but he hit wide both times before the quarter-hour mark.

And there was a very promising move by the home side in the 23rd minute. Belfort and Chopra combined well and fed Mohammed Rafique on the right but the Goan goalkeeper Laxmikanth Kattimani anticipated the shot near the near post nicely and made a smart save with his legs. Another fine chance followed a little later, with Josu Currias Prieto’s corner kick dipping in nicely across the face of the goal. The Goan defenders were scattered and two Blasters players desperately put their legs up with Pratik Chaudhary close to goal. But he failed to connect properly.