The visitors had two players sent off in controversial circumstances..
C K Vineeth scored a dramatic late winner against nine-man FC Goa in the ninth minute of added time for a 2-1 victory in a explosive Hero Indian Super League battle at Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, Kochi, on Wednesday.
Rafael Coelho provided FC Goa the lead in the ninth minute but the match took a dramatic turn early in second session when Goa captain Gregory Arnolin was sent off for handling the ball and Kerala Blasters won a penalty which Kervens Belfort converted to make it 1-1. In the 80th minute, Goa were reduced to nine man when Richarlyson was sent off for a double booking and despite Goa’s efforts to hold fort, Vineeth managed to register the winner in added time.
Interestingly, Vineeth had just returned to Kerala Blasters from Bengaluru FC after their AFC Cup engagements and played after joining the team in the afternoon.
The first win for Kerala Blasters at home took them to fourth on the table with 12 points while leaving Goa at the bottom.
FC Goa chief coach Zico surprised many by using just five foreign players while leaving international players like Joffre Gonzalez and Trindade Goncalves on the bench. He continued with a strong defence that had three international players and appeared to be banking on them to shut out opposition. Kerala Blasters coach Steve Coppell made four changes, introducing goalkeeper Graham Stack, Pratik Chaudhuri, Mohammed Rafique and Michael Chopra.
Kerala Blasters, playing at home after four matches away, didn’t mind the strong FC Goa wall of defence but were stunned in the ninth minute when their own defence was caught napping. Robin Singh had won a free kick out on the left and Richarlyson floated it right inside the danger zone. There were several bodies looking at the delivery but Brazilian striker Rafael Coelho did well to jump the highest and head it past the legs of goalkeeper Graham Stack.
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Short Match Highlights: Kerala Blasters 2-1 FC Goa
Kerala Blasters had their own chances to find the equaliser, particularly in the 17th minute when Rafique’s cross from the right was well measured but Belfort could not keep his header on target.
Rafique was also guilty of not finishing off a move in the 24th minute when he received a nice through ball from Michael Chopra but Goa goalkeeper Laxmikant Kattimani did well to block the attempt with his legs.
The match took a dramatic twist in the second session when it was just 30 seconds old. FC Goa captain Gregory Arnolin was adjudged to have handled a deflected ball inside the danger area and the referee not just awarded a penalty but also sent off Arnolin. Belfort made no mistake with the penalty.
With an additional player, Kerala Blasters enjoyed the advantage but could not surge ahead as Mohammed Rafi, Rafique and Josu Prieto all missed from close range.
Kerala were emboldened again when Goa were reduced to nine men in the 80th minute after Richarlyson was booked for the second time. Goa packed its defence but despite their best efforts, Kerala grabbed all points very late in the game with Vineeth scoring from a melee at the very end.