Kerala Blasters looked the better side for a major part at the Nehru Stadium here on Sunday. To add to the home side's joy, its rival FC Goa was reduced to 10 men for nearly 40 minutes of the second half. But after producing all the right moves, the host lowered its guard in the injury time and allowed Goa to walk away with a 2-2 draw to remain in the Indian Super League (ISL) standings.
Here are three talking from the draw in Kochi.
Strong start from Kerala
For the first time since the opening game of the season, Kerala started a game on the front foot. The kickoff was FC Goa’s but the home side’s players began the vigorous pressing immediately. The Goan players found little time on the ball and were hurried into clearing it. Before the game, Eelco Schattorie spoke of his team not being one to depend on long balls but said nothing about long throws. At the end of the first minute, Goa was forced into clearing for a throw-in. A quick, long-throw bounced off Mourtada Fall’s leg and fell to Cido, whose first time finish caught the keeper flatfooted. Kerala took the lead 61 seconds into the match, the fastest by any team in the Indian Super League this season.
The crowd went wild and drove the home side on. The pressing did not stop despite Kerala taking the lead. Under pressure across the pitch, Sergio Lobera’s men never found their passing rhythm. Kerala found out that attack is the best form of defence as it disturbed Goa’s passing game and stayed on top of the visiting side.
The defence also showed good communication. It regularly caught Manvir Singh offside from open play and from set-pieces the marking was spot-on. Until the goal.
Goa down but not out
FC Goa might have not been the better team in the first half but Goa got the equaliser when it mattered. Four minutes before half time, Fall scored to make it 1-1.
Kerala’s goal was rarely threatened but Goa fired enough warnings before the goal came.
Edu Bedia curled in a freekick that forced TP Rehnesh to go low and make the save. The ball went to the right where Jackichand Singh was alert. He looked up, saw Fall free and asking for the cross. Jackichand obliged and put the ball where he wanted. A good run and jump saw Fall squeeze the ball in at the near post.
For the second goal too, Goan players were alert to convert a half-chance into a goal. Manvir Singh won the ball, danced into the box, evaded his marker and saw his shot saved by the keeper. But Lenny Rodriguez reacted first to the rebound and slotted his ball into the net with the keeper nowhere.
Both times Goa equalised, it was on the backfoot but thoroughly deserved to score.
Individual mistakes cost Kerala
Both FC Goa’s goals were down to individual mistakes from Kerala players.
For FC Goa’s first goal, Vlatko Drobarov gave away a freekick – and picked up a yellow card – for an off-the-ball challenge on Manvir Singh. That was a silly challenge by the Macedonian when the forward was not threatening the goal. From the free-kick, Edu Bedia’s effort was saved before the following cross was converted by Fall.
For FC Goa’s second goal, the mistake was keeper Rehnesh’s. He got to a freekick and instead of holding onto the ball, he tried to send his team on an attack – with the Goan players pressing from all corners. Kerala lost the ball, Manvir’s shot was saved but Lenny got the equaliser. And just like that, Kerala dropped two important points to draw at home for the third time this season.
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