MARGAO: Kerala Blasters FC came from behind to beat FC Goa 2-1 in their 2016 Hero Indian Super League (ISL) football match at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium here today. Goa made a positive start with a Julio Cesar goal in the 24th minute.
Second half strikes by Mohammed Rafi and Kervens Belfort capped off a superb comeback by Kerala as they registered their first away win of the season in front of more than 18,000 fans.
It took 10 minutes for the first shot on goal, which went Kerala's way after a mazy run by Belfort saw the Haitian dance past the Goan defence before getting a shot away from outside the box. Gaurs custodian Subhasish Roy Chowdhury was comfortably positioned in goal to make the save though. Rafi then dragged a shot wide of goal in the 14th minute after a good lay-off by Belfort had set up the Indian striker on the edge of the box.
Kerala’s failure to make their early pressure pay was punished by Goa 10 minutes later. A quality cross from the left by Richarlyson found Cesar in a good position at the far post.
The Brazilian striker outjumped Josu Currais and rose highest to power in a header beyond a helpless Sandip Nandy in Kerala’s goal to make it 1-0 for the hosts. Chowdhury was called into action again in the 35th minute when a Sandesh Jhingan flick-on from a Blasters free-kick looked goal-bound.
The Goa shot-stopper, however, was alert to the danger and just managed to tip the ball over the crossbar for a corner to maintain his side's 1-0 advantage at the break. Kerala found their equaliser straight from the restart after Mehtab Hossain found Mohammed Rafique with space on the right.
Rafique's dangerous low cross across Goa’s six-yard box was met by Rafi's left foot to make it 1-1. Cesar went close to restoring Goa's lead in the 54th minute with an effort from range that was fractions wide of Kerala’s goal.
The Brazilian's next attempt forced Nandy into a save nine minutes later after a powerful free-kick from far out required the Indian goalkeeper’s intervention low to his left. The Blasters had a huge opportunity of scoring the winner when Michael Chopra found the ball at his feet in the 80th minute. His shot was expertly saved by Chowdhury in goal as the home support roared in approval.
It turned out to be Chopra's last involvement in the game as he had to be stretchered off the pitch soon. The Gaurs started looking shaky in defence with the game approaching its climax. Gregory Arnolin almost scored an own goal in the 83rd minute when an attempted header back to Chowdhury struck the frame of Goa's goal.
Belfort scored the winner a minute later for the men in yellow. The Haitian received a Josu pass on the left flank before driving at Goa's defence and unleashing a thunderous effort from distance to make it 2-1 for Steve Coppell's men.
The Gaurs pushed hard for an equaliser during the closing stages of the game but resolute and disciplined defending by the visitors saw them weather the storm and pick up their first three points on the road in ISL 2016.