29 Shots on target, 8 Goals and a Hatrick. That’s just the tip of the ice berg to explain how thrilling the match was between Kerala Blasters and FC Goa. When two teams who were not ready to give up, we witnessed a match full of suspense till the final whistle. Early lead, a comeback that any teams can just dream for, a last-minute bounce back and a 4-4 draw at the end forcing both the teams to share the points make the match looks better that any Hollywood thriller.
Hyderabad FC’s win over Mumbai City FC on Saturday night confirmed the Semi Final spot for Kerala Blasters even before the kickoff. This gave freedom for Ivan Vukomanović to utilize his resources and test the squad strength. Kerala Blasters went with 4 changes from our usual squad. Coach Ivan opted to change his regular full foreign attach unit and moved Rahul KP to attack along with the inform Jorge Pereyra Díaz. Few eyebrows would have raised by seeing Díaz in attack. Díaz, who have already received 6 yellow cards, and a player who is smart in making interceptions in the opponent half regularly may have missed the first semi-final match if he would have got booked again.
However, this risky move from coach Ivan turned out to be effective by the Argentinian securing a 2 goals lead even before the match clock had 26 minutes on it.
Moving out from a foreign player from attach saw Enes Sipović joining Marko Lešković in the absence of Harmanjot Singh Khabra in defence due to a 2-match suspension.
Chencho Gyeltshen was moved to the midfield as a left winger and Givson Singh joined Ayush Adhikari while Sahal Abdul Samad taking in charge of the right wing for Blasters. This gave break for a regular face in the starting eleven of Blasters midfield, Adrián Luna. Just like fans this should have surprised the FC Goa defence too. It was evident throughout the match as the ‘CG7’ caused regular trouble for the opponents through left wing and Sahal causing enough damage through right wing.
On the other hand, FC Goa opted to go for 8 changes from the squad from last match. This opened doors for debutant Goalkeeper Hrithik Tiwari.
Match started with FC Goa on command. With precession passing and possession football FC Goa looked like on command till a ‘goal against the tide’ from Jorge Pereyra Díaz surprised the Goan defence. Sahal Abdul Samad intercepting a pass just outside the FC Goa penalty box made a supply and Díaz did what he does the best by guiding it to back of the net.
A one goal lead saw change in momentum. Kerala Blasters suddenly started dominating the game by Chencho causing trouble for the opponents with his blistering pace while Goan attack was effectively handled by blasters defence. 13th minute of the game saw a pass from Prabhsukhan Singh Gill finding Chencho in opponent quarter resulting in the first corner in favour of Blasters. Blasters switching to high pressing mode forces Anwar Ali to force a mistake and go rough on Ayush Adhikari which gave Blasters our first freekick in the game. Marko Lešković took the kick just outside the box and hit the wall created by FC Goa defence.
21st minute saw a corner from Ayush Adhikari guided to the post by a nick from Chencho saved by debutant Hrithik Tiwari. It only took 3 minutes for blasters to test the opponent defence again. A long ball pass was received by Díaz with perfection and flicked to Rahul KP who was in the penalty box. However, Anwar Ali made his presence felt with a last-minute tackle and denying the opportunity.
Chencho, who had caused enough trouble for the goan defence was brought down by Brandon Fernandes just a minute before Chencho rushed in to the goan penalty box and was brought down by FC Goa custodian Hrithik Tiwari. Referee pointed to the spot while Hrithik received a yellow card for the error. Jorge Pereyra Díaz made no mistake and registered his 2nd goal in the match.
2 goal lead did not did not restrict Blasters from attack. 41st minute saw Ayush receiving a yellow card for a tackle on Devendra from behind. Blasters dominated the match till the half time break except a counter attack on from FC Goa on the 44 minute which was not strong enough to test Prabhsukhan Singh Gill.
When the result looked in favour of the ‘MEN IN YELLOW’, with three changes FC Goa returned from break with a ‘COMEBACK’ plan. Airam Cabrera, Aiban Dohling and Seriton Fernandes replace Muhammed Nemil, Sanson Pereira and Seriton Fernandes.
Just 9 minutes in to the second half a pin point pass from Edu Bedia goes through all the blasters players in the box and finds Airam Cabrera and arrives smartly at the far post ending the clean sheet dreams for Prabhsukhan Singh Gill. Never we knew, it was just the beginning.
An attempt from Sahal on the 51st minute and Díaz missing to connect a pass just inches away from score line kept the Blasters fighting back to increase the lead. But things were just getting bad for Blasters. The relief came in the form of an offside flag at 58th minute did not live long. Airam Cabrera attempt to level the score was called offside. However, it only took him 3 more minutes to find the back of the net in a penalty awarded against Blasters for bringing down Makan Chothe inside the box.
Coach Ivan switched his ammo by a twin substitution in 64th minute by bringing in Adrian Luna and Vincy Barretto for Ayush Adhikari and Pereyra Diaz.
Anwar Ali’s attempt was judged as offside just the teams took the drinks break. Blasters brought Prasanth Karuthadathkuni in as replacement for Rahul KP to refresh the attack. A stunner from Aiban Dohling giving a 1 goal lead for ‘Gaurs’ after trailing 2-0 in the first half. Coach Ivan came with his final substitutions for the day with calling in Alvaro Vazquez and Hormipam Ruivah for Enes Sipovic and Sahal Abdul Samad.
Score board and time remaining on clock made It look like FC Goa have delivered the final nail on the coffin for Blasters when Devendra Murgaonkar beat the blasters defence with pace and delivered a pass to Airam Cabrera who made no mistake in scoring his hattrick.
But, Kerala Blasters showed why they have a spot in the top 4 with a ‘bounce back’ which equals or almost over shadows the fight back from FC Goa. Chencho Gyeltshen’s pass to the box was fired to the bottom right corner of the net by Vincy Barretto when the clock had only 2 more minutes for the injury time. This should have wings for the dreams of Blasters fan who dreamed about a ‘bounce back’ draw. And the team which Coach Ivan Vukomanović moulded, who have exceeded the fans expectations was there to deliver when the odds are against them. Sanjeev Stalin to Adrian Luna , steps over and finding some space, Stalin collects the ball and move closer to the box pass to Chencho, Chencho pass it to Prasanth Karuthadathkuni on his second touch, Prasanth repeats the same and ball is collected and fired by Alvaro Vazquez it to the bottom left corner of the net. Referee check his watch and it’s 90 minutes on clock. Blasters have bounced back and delivered a comeback fight.
5 more minutes later the final whistle was blown and the score board remains the same.