Kerala Blasters booked their berth in semi-final defeating NEUFC 1-0
Kerala Blasters booked their berth into semi-final defeating NEUFC 1-0 at home, giving a big smile on the face of the fans who came to watch the match to support their home team. NorthEast United FC, who had started their campaign of Hero Indian Super League 2016 against Kerala Blasters in inaugural match of the season in a winning way, unfortunately forced to pack their bags against the same team, here on Sunday evening at Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, Kochi. CK Vineeth, Indian international Kerala Blasters’ hero of the day, scored the only goal of the match infront of 53,000 home fans to take his team into the semi-final where they will play Delhi Dynamos.
Hosts Kerala tested Highlanders defense early on, when Duckens Nazon dispossessed Mailson Alves in the fourth minute. Nazon made some room on the left and fired a cracking shot, but TP Rehenesh was alert for the Highlanders to make his first save of the evening.
NEUFC took their time to settle and their first strike arrived in 18th minute, when Seityasen Singh fired a left-footed shot from distance which Blasters’ goalkeeper Graham Stack saved. Romaric free-kick in the 34th minute from outside the box was the best chance for visitors to capitalize, but Ivorian strikes little over the bar, and home fans took a sigh of relief.
Seityasen also had the chance for visitors in stoppage-time, when a loose ball came towards his feet, but Manipur born midfielder strike goes up in the sky, and didn’t bother Stack to make a save. First-half ended 0-0, as the last two matches results ended.
Second-half wasn’t lively from the first minute, but as the time passes, NorthEast desperation and need to win the fixture got witnessed. Katsumi Yusa and Emiliano Alfaro combined together, Yusa threaded in a good ball for Alfaro, but Stack was quick to reach first and blow NEUFC move. Alfaro was denied by Stack a minute later as well, when Uruguayan was set up by Seityasen which should have been enough for Highlanders to score on board.
Despite NEUFC numerous effort, it was Kerala who took the lead in the 66th minute of the match. CK Vineeth, the Indian international left-winger cut inside the left flank and strikes from outside of the box, Rehenesh only helped himself watching the ball as it goes into the net. Hosts took the much needed lead to put some extra pressure on the Highlanders.
The lead gave Blasters an edge over their rival, and they started threatening more. Belfort also tried his luck with a shot on target, bur Rehenesh was alert to tip the ball over the bar to keep Highlanders into the game. Blasters’ substitute Antonio German was also denied to score his first goal of the season.
NorthEast needed two goals to win the match and time was running off. They had a corner awarded in 81st minute of the match, but Alves header goes straight into Stacks hands and Irish goalkeeper made a routine save. The Brazilian should have done better after raising himself highest to make a good contact with the ball. Alfaro was unlucky to not to score in the 84th minute when he fired in a shot from distance that hit the post.
Well, it was NEUFC who needed goals in last few minutes, but it was Kerala who came close to scoring second within normal time. when Mohammed Rafi’s header effort from close range was tipped onto the crossbar by Rehenesh. Highlanders were sent back to pack bags and prepare for next season, whereas Kerala moved into the semi-finals of Hero Indian Super League season 2016. Blasters will play Delhi Dynamos FC in the semifinal, whereas Mumbai City FC will face Atletico de Kolkata.