Rowllin Borges’ goal propels Goa to the top of the table with a 1-0 win against Kerala Blasters

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Boris Singh of Goa in action against Kerala Blasters

Goa climbed to the top of the ISL 2023-24 points table as they picked up a slim 1-0 victory over Kerala Blasters at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Fatorda on Sunday. Rowllin Borges’ goal just before half-time turned out to be the difference between the two sides. 

Goa coach Manolo Marquez made two changes to the side that beat Jamshedpur 1-0 as Victor Rodriguez and Noah Sadaoui returned to the starting line-up replacing the injured Brandon Fernandes and forward the benched Carlos Martinez.

Kerala Blasters were playing their third game in nine days and head coach Ivan Vukomanovic rung in changes bringing back Pritam Kotal in place of Prabir Das in the right-back position. Mohammed Aimen replaced Rahul KP in the left-wing position to add a different dimension to the attack.

The home side registered their first shot on target in the 3rd minute when Jay Gupta attempted a curling pass towards the centre from the left side of the field. Naocha Singh intercepted the ball but Boris Singh pounced on the rebound. The 23-year-old took a powerful shot from a distance but Sachin Suresh had positioned himself perfectly to collect the ball. 

Kerala Blasters’ Vibin Mohanan aimed for glory from a distance in the seventh minute but Arshdeep Singh gripped the ball firmly to see out the early threat in the contest. One minute later, the away side almost took the lead when Danish Farooq intercepted a pass from Gupta in the middle of the field releasing Kwame Peprah who burst past Sandesh Jhingan and the Ghanaian’s chip shot went past Arshdeep narrowly trickling past the frame of the goal.

The Gaurs surged back into the game in the 13th minute when Noah Sadaoui whizzed past Milos Drincic in the right flank and laid a pass towards the middle where Victor Rodriguez controlled the ball with his first touch before aiming for a shot but Hormipam Ruivah nodded it away to keep the scorers at rest.

Goa only grew strength to strength in the game as in the 19th minute, they registered another shot on target. Rowllin Borges made a pass towards Victor who laid it off for Noah with his first touch. 

The Moroccan found himself in a one-on-one position with Suresh but the latter had the last laugh as he thwarted the attempt. One minute later, Borges took a shot from a distance with his first touch but it was inches wide of the goal as Sachin dived in vain. 

In the 40th minute, Goa tried to capitalize on Kerala Blasters’ weakness in set-pieces when Victor floated a ball towards an unmarked Odei Onaindia at the left side of the box in acres of space. The central defender laid a pass towards Jhingan at the penalty spot but the Indian international’s shot sailed over the crossbar. 

Two minutes later, the Gaurs got two opportunities to break the deadlock but failed to find the back of the net. Gupta burst past Hormipam and cut back a pass towards Boris whose first-time shot hit the body of Drincic. On the rebound, Raynier tried to slam the ball home but it flew over the crossbar. 

Borges finally gave Goa the lead in the dying embers of the first half after he angled his volley off Victor’s free-kick towards the back of the net from inside the box. However, he suffered an injury at the back of his knee after his goal and had to be substituted by Udanta Singh at the interval.

Adrian Luna in action for Kerala Blasters against Goa

In the second half, Kerala Blasters tried to mount a comeback as Dimitrios Diamantakos made a darting run into the box in the 51st minute which was ultimately closed down by Onaindia. The Greek international took a shot from a tight angle but it rolled past the frame of the goal. 

In the 59th minute, Aimen took the ball away from his marker Carl McHugh and unleashed another shot from a distance. It was again kept on target but Arshdeep got a hand to it and prevented the ball from bulging the back of the net. One minute later, Diamantakos beat Onaindia with his pace and tried to find Peprah but Jhingan cleared the ball away to safety. 

Diamantakos unleashed his piledriving free-kick straight into the hands of Arshdeep in the 70th minute as another threat of Kerala Blasters fizzled away. The defenders of the two sides had the last laugh for the remainder of the game as no other shot on target was registered. 

Goa pipped Kerala Blasters to the summit position and now has 19 points from 7 matches which includes six wins and one draw. This is the Kerala Blasters’ second loss in the competition as they have 17 points from 9 games in their bag.

The Gaurs will now enjoy a week-long break before facing another top-table side Mumbai City at home in the Western Coast Derby. The Blasters will enjoy a 10-day break before travelling to New Delhi for an away match against Punjab at their adopted home stadium, the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in the heart of the capital city.