KOCHI: A 77th-minute header from Edu Bedia helped FC Goa defeat Kerala Blasters 2-1 at Jawaharlal Nehru International Stadium on Sunday. Kerala had equalised through CK Vineeth in the 29th minute after Ferran Corominas had given Goa an early lead. But Bedia’s effort left Blasters with a mountain to climb in order to qualify for the playoffs.
The injured Kizito Keziron was the major absence in the Blasters starting XI as he was replaced by Siam Hanghal. Jackichand Singh returned in place of Karan Sawhney. Sergio Lobera also had a key player out in the form of Bruno Pinheiro, as Sergio Juste took his place at the heart of Goan defence.
Lanzarote struck the crossbar almost straight from the kick-off after Vineeth lost possession in his own half allowing the Spaniard to go on a counter. Lanza, despite having two free runners to his left, decided to have a pop himself from 25 yards out, with only the woodwork coming to the home side’s rescue.
But they would not be denied for long. The visitors were at their attacking best in the opening minutes and Corominas, who had condemned Blasters to a 5-2 thrashing in December with a hattrick, was at it again. Brandon Fernandes split the Blasters defence finding Mandar Rao Dessai on the left wing who in turn fed Corominas. The Spaniard calmly picked his spot to make it 1-0 in the seventh minute. At that point, the defenders in yellow must have feared the worst.
Goa remained in control, but in the 25th minute, a Hanghal long-ranger which skimmed the crossbar seemed to have lifted the Blasters players. Four minutes later, Hanghal flicked a header into the path of Vineeth inside the box and the forward slotted the ball past Laxmikanth Kattimani to draw level. Vineeth’s celebration with Rino — a fancy handshake followed by a drink up gesture — might have been a subtle nod and a show of support to captain Sandesh Jhingan after former coach Rene Meulensteen accused Jhingan of partying late into the morning after that 5-2 pummelling in Goa. Rino was withdrawn in the 39th minute due to injury, but Blasters were the side who were probing for another goal.
And Vineeth was a busy player after the break. Kerala’s goalscorer created space and shot on the turn in the 52nd minute, but only at Kattimani. Ten minutes later, Vineeth went down inside the box while trying to go past Mohamed Ali, but the referee was having none of it.
The sucker punch was delivered by the visitors in the 77th minute. Bedia was the first to connect to a corner at the near post and his glancing header gave goalkeeper Paul Rachubka no chance. Brandon added yet another assist to his name, and Goa travelled home with three points that consolidate their position in the top-four.