Kerala Blasters FC pipped FC Pune City 2 – 1 in an entertaining Indian Super League 2017-18 encounter at the Shree Shiv Chhatrapati Sports Complex in Pune on Friday. Jackichand Singh’s strike gave Kerala the lead before Emiliano Alfaro equalised from the spot. It was, however, CK Vineeth, who had the final laugh as he bagged a last-gasp winner for the visitors deep into injury time.
Both teams started with some free-flowing football, taking turns to charge into the opposition half. The Stallions had a big let off in the fifth minute. Custodian Vishal Kaith failed to clear a simple back pass and the ball came straight to Iain Hume. The Canadian tried to tee up Vineeth but overcooked his pass as the Pune fans heaved a huge sigh of relief.
It was the visitors who had the match’s first shot on target when a couple of minutes later, Diego Carlos cut in from the left flank and took a shot at the near post. However, keeper Subhasish Roy was alert and made a fine save. On the half-hour mark, Jackichand floated in a delightful ball from the right flank, and while the goal was at Hume’s mercy, the ball was just a bit high for him to connect well to and it flew out of play.
Four minutes before the break, the hosts had a great opportunity when Rafael Lopez’s long ball put Alfaro through on goal, but the Uruguayan surprisingly blasted his shot wide off target from a slight angle. That proved to be the last chance of the half, as the teams went into the break without the deadlock being broken.
Nine minutes following the restart, the home team came agonizingly close to scoring. Marcelinho received the ball outside the box and took a few touches before letting fly. The ball unfortunately though, ricocheted off the bar after beating the keeper. Instead, a couple of minutes before the hour mark, Kerala took the lead. Jackichand received the ball in midfield, took a few strides and put his laces through his shot which sailed past a hapless Kaith and into the net.
The 72nd minute saw Marcelinho try his luck from almost 40 yards out, but his fierce shot was palmed away by a sprawling Roy. Seven minutes later though, Pune equalised. After Alfaro was put through on goal by Marcelinho, Roy came off his lines and brought down the Uruguayan, prompting the referee to point to the spot. Alfaro himself stepped up and calmly tucked the spot-kick into the bottom right corner past a rooted Roy.
Three minutes into added time and Marcelinho tried to beat Roy with a chip from the edge of the box, but only managed to hit the crossbar again. However, just a minute later, Kerala grabbed the winner. Vineeth received a pass outside the penalty box, turned and hit a delightful left-footer to beat Kaith for his team’s second. That was the last bit of action from the game, as Kerala jumped into the fifth spot with the three points, ensuring the battle for the top four intensified.