Kerala Blasters bounce back to winning ways in an emphatic 4-2 win against Goa

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Daisuke Sakai and Dimitrios Diamantakos led Kerala Blasters’ comeback

In the last fixture of Matchday 16 of the 2023-24 Indian Super League season, Kerala Blasters returned to winning ways in superb fashion, handing Goa a 4-2 defeat at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Kochi. 

A Dimitrios Diamantakos brace and goals from Daisuke Sakai and Fedor Cernych comprised the four goals scored by the Tuskers while Rowllin Borges and Mohammad Yasir were on the scoresheet for the Gaurs.

Kerala Blasters head coach Ivan Vukomanovic made five changes to his team that lost 0-1 against Chennaiyin. The injured duo of Sachin Suresh and Marko Leskovic were replaced by Karanjit Singh and Ruivah Hormipam respectively. The trio of Mohammed Aimen, Danish Farooq, and Ishan Pandita were replaced by Rahul KP, Vibin Mohanan, and Diamantakos respectively.

On the other hand, Goa head coach Manolo Marquez Roca made four changes to his starting XI after a 0-2 loss against NorthEast United. Borges, Yasir, Udanta Singh, and Noah Sadaoui were given starts at the expense of Ayush Dev Chhetri, Boris Singh, Brandon Fernandes, and Carlos Martinez respectively.

The hosts had a chance in just the second minute of the game when Cernych darted down the right flank before finding Diamantakos at the edge of the box with a pass using the outside of his foot. The Greek striker then did well to launch a powerful shot with his left foot, but it was narrowly wide.

In the 7th minute, Goa had their first chance when Borja Herrera floated in a dangerous cross from a free-kick which would have found Carl McHugh unmarked, had it not been for an excellent headed clearance by Milos Drincic.

However, the Gaurs did not have to wait too long for the opener, which came from the resulting corner. The delivery from Herrera evaded everyone and found Borges at the far post, who struck a thunderous shot past an outstretched Karanjit.

The next few minutes saw the Tuskers trying to find a way back into the game, but they received another jolt when Goa doubled their advantage in the 17th minute. Udanta played a delightful ball down the left flank for Sadaoui, who did well to beat his marker and then launched a grounded cross into the box. Finding himself totally unmarked, Yasir had the easiest of tasks of putting the ball into an empty net.

In the 22nd minute, Goa put the ball into the back of the net for the third time when Sadaoui capitalized from a ball from the deep, although he was adjudged to be in an offside position. 11 minutes later, Diamantakos tried his luck from an acute angle but had his shot deflected behind for a corner.

The last chance of the first half fell to the home side in the 42nd minute. Vibin threaded a perfect pass for right-back Sandeep Singh, who then delivered an immaculate cross into the box. Diamantakos had done well to beat his marked Odei Onaindia, but could not keep his shot on target.

The Tuskers started the second half on the front foot and it took them just four minutes to create their first chance. Substitute Sakai chested down a cross from Drincic into the path of Diamantakos, but his shot was saved by Arshdeep Singh.

The first Kerala Blasters goal came in the 51st minute. Diamantakos drew a foul in a dangerous area after Onaindia fouled from, and from the setpiece, Sakai struck an inch-perfect shot that struck the crossbar and went in.

The next few minutes saw both teams throwing a few punches. In the 69th minute, left-back Naocha Singh tried his luck from distance but could not beat Arshdeep. Just three minutes later, McHugh had his header saved by Karanjit.

Goa had a big chance of restoring their two-goal cushion in the 76th minute. Raynier Fernandes drilled in a low cross from the right flank which was parried away by Karanjit, but fell to the feet of Sadaoui. The Moroccan was alert in a flash to strike a volley, but Sandeep Singh came up with a heroic block.

It turned out to be a costly miss as the Tuskers finally equalized in the 81st minute. A cross from Sakai nearly found Cernych inside the box but it struck the arm of McHugh, resulting in a penalty. Diamantakos made no mistake in converting the chance, sending Arshdeep the wrong way.

The former Olympiacos striker was not done yet. In the 84th minute, Aimen drilled a cross from the left flank which should have been easily gathered by Arshdeep, but the young goalkeeper made a hash of it and ended up spilling it into the feet of Diamantakos, but somehow bundled it into the net despite the angle being very acute.

Fedor Cernych scored his first goal in Kerala Blasters’ colors

Having turned the tables on Goa emphatically, Kerala Blasters then went on to score their insurance goal in the 88th minute. Receiving a pass from Mohammed Azhar, Cernych laid off a pass for Diamantakos, who instead found the Lithuanian skipper in a delicate one-two. Cernych then struck a powerful shot past Arshdeep to make it 4-2 for his team.

Goa did try to make a late comeback, but it was not of any use. Jay Gupta and Raynier had attempts at the goal in the additional time, but neither of them could trouble Karanjit or the scoreline.

With this win, Kerala Blasters have climbed to the fourth position in the standings with 29 points from 16 games. They will now take on Bengaluru on Saturday. Meanwhile, Goa fell to fifth with 28 points from 15 matches and will be up against Mumbai City on Wednesday.