Riding on Brazilian Reinaldo Oliveira’s hat-trick, FC Goa thrashed ten-man Kerala Blasters FC 5-1 and marched into the semi-finals of the Indian Super League at the Nehru Stadium here on Sunday night.
The victory helped Goa move to second place with 22 points and become the third team, after defending champions Atletico de Kolkata and Delhi Dynamos to make the last four. Meanwhile, last year’s runners-up Kerala, who stayed at the bottom with 12 points after suffering their seventh defeat, were eliminated from the semi-final race.
The match looked even in the first session, but Spanish midfielder Josu Currias Prieto’s exit after receiving a red card, just before half-time, turned it sharply in Goa’s favour.
With both teams hungry for a win, the game had a fast, attacking start. Spanish midfielders Victor Forcada Pulga and Josu along with Englishman Antonio German combined nicely and kept the Goa defence busy.
It was this combination, which gave the Blasters the lead in the second minute. The hard-working Pulga ran through the centre and fed German on the right. The speedy Englishman sneaked into the box from the side and sent a cross to Pulga, who guided it home with a right-footer. It was the third time the Blasters were taking the lead within the first two minutes this season.
Goa fought hard, working their way up on the right flank and in the 12th minute, Reinaldo set up Jofre from just outside the box. The Spaniard made no mistake and scored the Goa equaliser.
The home team should have regained the lead around the 20th minute, but they were unlucky to be denied a penalty when striker Mohammed Rafi was brought down inside the box by defender Gregory Arnolin.
Goa, clearly thrilled with the let-off, took the lead just before the half-hour mark. It came off a nice piece of play with Mandar Rao Desai sending a cross from the right to the dangerous Leo Moura, who was quick to relay it to Reinaldo. The Brazilian forward sent the goalkeeper Stephen Bywater the wrong way with a smart finish to the right.
The game turned a bit ugly just before the interval and Josu, who suffered a cut on his lip from an encounter with Jofre, punched and pushed the Goa midfielder. Joffre fell clutching his chest and referee Dilan Perera was quick to give the Spaniard his marching orders.
Goa were quick to seize the advantage and soon there was a flow of goals, three coming in a 14-minute spell from the 50th minute, as the home defenders watched in horror. Mandar, whose impressive crosses easily pierced the host’s defence, sent one from the left to Reinaldo, who made no mistake even as defender Sandesh Jhingan desperately attempted to thwart him with a slide. Reinaldo completed his hat-trick soon after the hour-mark with a cross from C. S. Sabeeth. Bywater could only raise his hands in despair.
Mandar was rewarded for all the hard work when Moura fed him after receiving a pass from Reinaldo and the Indian was right on target.
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