The southerners sealed a last gasp win in Maharashtra’s second city to keep themselves alive in the race for the playoffs.
Kerala Blasters FC grabbed a dramatic last-gasp winner to beat FC Pune City 2 – 1 at the Shree Shiv Chhatrapati Sports Complex Stadium in Pune on Friday. After Jackichand Singh had given the two-time finalists the lead, Emilano Alfaro equalised from the spot. However, local boy CK Vineeth bagged the winner deep into injury time to hand all three points to the Kochi-based outfit. The win takes them to fifth position in the Hero Indian Super League (ISL) 2017-18 points table and speaking to the media post-match was their head coach David James.
The match turned out to be a feisty affair with a hard tackles and heated moments, but the Englishman defended the players. “When I watched the videos, I didn’t think it looked as vicious as it appeared,” he inferred. “It’s the nature of the game. Both teams needed the win, and for the players it was difficult to keep control and unfortunately, we got a lot of bookings. But it happens in football. But I got to credit my players for not losing their cool.”
James opened up about how difficult it was to play Pune and how it took two sensational strikes from the visitors to secure maximum points. “It was tough, they are a good side,” he admitted. “We knew before the game where the dangers were, and I think we nullified it fair enough. It took two wonder goals to get the points. But having said that, we created a lot of opportunities and it’s one of the best games I have ever seen. The spirit was there and CK (Vineeth) scored the winning goal and I think that was a massive moment for us and for him personally.”
Vineeth was overcome with emotion after the final whistle and was consoled by James. The former 47-year-old shed light on the incident. “CK has had a tough week,” he explained. “Some private issues and it was a little like the last match when we might have lost a player for one reason or another. But he said he was up for the game. He played like he was up for the game, and obviously he scored such a magnificent winning goal which rounded off a great performance from the team. But as I said, it has been a tough week for CK, but he showed a lot of resilience.”
The former England international also spoke about Jackichand’s goal. “The interesting thing is that Jackichand this week in training has been shooting from distance and looking very good,” he revealed. “And if you train well, you get chances in the game. When he scored I was slightly surprised, but after what he had done this week, it made sense.”
James concluded by highlighting his team’s objectives for the remaining fixtures. “We need four more wins to get into the playoffs,” he stated. “This win is one step forward. With Jamshedpur winning, they have got a little bit ahead of us and there are teams that can get ahead of us. Four wins and 12 points is what we are aiming for.”
Meanwhile, Pune’s assistant coach Vladica Grujic shared his disappointment after losing the game. “Look, I want to say that we did not deserve to lose,” the Serbian stated. “But that is football. Sometimes you do not get the results you deserve. But we will come back stronger. I told the players that this match is finished, life goes on. But we deserved a draw at least.”