Local hero CK Vineeth calmed down the excited fans with a goal that was enough to put the Yellow Submarine on fire.
Kerala Blasters FC ended their wait for a first Hero Indian Super League (ISL) 2017-18 win after they edged the 10 men of NorthEast United FC 1-0 in front of their boisterous fans at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Kochi on Friday. CK Vineeth scored the winner mid-way through the first half, while the Highlanders had their goalkeeper TP Rehenesh sent off just before half-time.
The visitors started with more purpose and fashioned the first shot on target in the fourth minute. Marcinho picked up Martin Diaz’s pass and fired on goal. Custodian Paul Rachubka though, came up with a smart save for Kerala.
The Blasters had a good opportunity to take the lead in the 15th minute, when Courage Pekuson picked out Mark Sifneos with a brilliant cross-field ball to put him through on goal. However, under pressure from Jose Goncalves, he chipped it way over the target.
The home team took the lead nine minutes later when Rino Anto, after finding acres of space to push forward on the right flank, delivered a pin-point cross to Vineeth who was placed between two defenders. Kerala’s local boy had the simplest of tasks to direct his header into the goal, which he did.
It got worse for the Highlanders two minutes before half-time. Pekuson fed another delightful ball to Sifneos, and once again through on goal, the Dutchman this time took a touch to round off Rehenesh. The NorthEast goalkeeper though fouled Sifneos just outside the box with a desperate dive, and was shown a straight red as he was deemed to have unfairly denied a clear goal-scoring opportunity.
ISL 2017-18 Highlights: Kerala Blasters 1-0 NorthEast United FC
The score-line remained untroubled for what remained of the half as Kerala went into the break with a one-goal advantage.
The Blasters wasted no time in taking charge following the restart. Three minutes into the second half, and Pekuson burst into the box with a powerful run and was only denied a goal by Sambinha sticking out a leg to block his shot.
They went even closer six minutes later. Pekuson played a lovely reverse ball to Lalruatthara, and his shot beat substitute keeper Ravi Kumar before ricocheting off the upright.
NorthEast to their credit started pushing even with 10 men and came ever so close to equalising three minutes from time. A corner from substitute Odair Fortes was flicked on by Danilo Lopes, and the ball needed just a touch to be put into the goal. However, Nirmal Chettri at the far post missed it by inches. It allowed Kerala to hang on and secure their first win of the campaign.