Bhumij’s equaliser spoils Blasters’ night

Though Kerala took an early lead and dominated for most of the game, a last minute goal from Pranjal Bhumij helped Mumbai earn its first point of the season.

Pranjal Bhumij celebrates his equaliser against Kerala Blasters.   -  H.Vibhu

David James looked shell-shocked as he watched substitute Pranjal Bhumij’s shot float into the Kerala Blasters' goal. Wild celebrations ensued in the Mumbai City FC camp as the Blasters head coach slumped into his chair.

Kerala, playing its first game at home in the new season of the Indian Super League (ISL), could have won this match by a three-goal margin. But in the end, points were shared as Bhumij, a 19-year-old from Assam, scored in the third minute of added time to cancel the lead Kerala took in the 24th minute through Holicharan Narzary, who also hails from Assam.

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Fresher, fitter and faster, the Blasters dominated the proceedings, moving the ball around well and frequently finding space to attack down the left wing through Narzary.

After poking and probing from either wing, the Blasters’ opening goal came in the 24th minute. Seiminlen Doungel popped up on the right wind and, with his back to facing the goal, he passed to Slavisa Stojanovic with a backheel, who found Narzary free on the left and set him up. The 24-year-old midfielder made no mistake with a left-footed strike that beat Amrinder and went into the near post.

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The Blasters came close to scoring one more in the 66th minute but Stojanovic’s attempt, from outside the box, was just wide of the far post.

Not content with the lead, the Blasters put more men up the front which helped Mumbai come up with a number of counterattacks, but the home defenders - led by captain Sandesh Jhingan - held firm. Jhinghan, incidentally, was making his 60th appearance in the ISL - the most by any player, surpassing Iain Hume and Mandar Dessai.

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With Kerala minutes away from recording its second win in two games, Bhumij dribbled towards the Kerala goal before unleashing a strike that floated into the Kerala goal to break the home fans’ hearts.

The result: Kerala Blasters 1 (Holicharan Narzary 24') drew with Mumbai City 1 (Pranjal Bhumij 90'+3')