The Islanders went down fighting 3-0 to Kerala Blasters on Sunday at the Fatorda. Goals from Sahal Abdul Samad, Alvaro Vazquez and Jorge Pereyra Diaz denied us the three points.
We kept nearly the same squad from our last outing, save Vikram Pratap coming in for Raynier. Meanwhile, coach Vukomanovic rung in three changes – Harmanjot Khabra for Sandeep Singh, Ruivah Hormipam for Enes Sipovic, and Jorge Diaz for Prasanth.
As has been the case in the past, we started the game with good intensity. A couple shots and a yellow card to Vazquez within the first five minutes were positive signs for the men in blue.
But with such electric fixtures, drama is never too far off. In the 10th minute, Kerala Blasters got their first shot on target, following a dubious refereeing decision – the first of many tonight. Apuia was taken out from behind by Diaz, and somehow, the signal to play on was given. Vazquez made the most of our bewilderment, and pulled the trigger from afar. Fortunately, the man between the sticks was alert and tipped the ball away for a corner.
Soon after, it was Jahouh who was pushed by Diaz. The whistle came after Kerala had gone on with the ball, and it was enough to send sparks flying from both sides.
In the 26th minute, KBFC scored their first. Adrian Luna chipped the ball into the box, which Diaz received at a tight angle. The ball was floated across to Sahal, who let it bounce and struck it with his laces. It was the first time this season that our opponents drew first blood.
Mourtada Fall went into the book in the first half for slightly clipping Diaz’s foot in a 50-50 challenge.
We worked hard to get into our rhythm, but a cagey battle on the wings denied us any clear opportunities in the first 45 minutes.
15 minutes went by and we headed out of the tunnel, eager to make a come-back. But, it just wasn’t our night. The second half got off to the worst possible start, with us conceding two more and being reduced to 10 men.
In as early as the 46th minute, the visitors got their second goal. A throw-in from Khabra found Jeakson on the right wing, who put in a well-placed cross. Vazquez took his chances, and volleyed it first time. The connection was far too good, and the ball sailed into the back of the net.
Mere minutes later, Mourtada Fall was given his second yellow for a last-man challenge on Diaz. Even though the offense was committed outside the box, the referee awarded a penalty to the Blasters. Nawaz came close to denying Diaz, but the penalty was too precise to get to.
Now a man down, and without our captain, some nervy minutes went by till Des Buckingham made a few changes. Mehtab Singh came on for Mandar Rao Dessai. Valpuia made his under the coach, when he came on for Amey Ranawade. Igor Angulo was also subbed out for Ygor Catatau.
Meanwhile, Jorge Diaz made way for Chencho Gyeltshen due to injury.
It was around the hour mark when we started growing back into the game. Cassio took a left-sided corner which fell to Jahouh at the far post. The ball was chipped across to Ygor, who headed it down to Vikram. Unfortunately, the youngster’s acrobatic effort went wayward.
Our best chance of the night came in the 65th minute. Jahouh latched on to a loose ball in the opposition half, and played it straight to Catatau. The #38 threaded it through to Bipin Singh, who was rushing ahead. Uncharacteristically, he put the ball over the bar and failed to test the ‘keeper.
Raynier came on soon after, and was looking lively from the get-go. Some quick footwork and a through ball nearly saw him provide an assist to Catatau, but the shot went right at the goalie.
Kerala nearly scored their fourth, if it wasn’t for Nawaz’s quick reflexes. In the 79th minute and against the run of play, Prabhsukhan Gill found Vazquez behind our lines. The striker tried to curl it into the corner, but our custodian was equal to it and produced a fine save.
The final chance of the game came in the 83rd minute, when Cassio put in a delightful chip into the box for Raynier. Unfortunately, the ball bounced right in front of him and he was unable to side-foot it in. The move cruelly summed up our night, as the remaining few minutes led to no joy.
We look to get back to our winning ways on Monday, the 27th as we face Northeast United in an away game.