FULL-TIME: FC Goa vs Kerala Blasters FC
FC Goa: 22′ Coro (Header, Assist: B. Fernandes); 25′ Edu Bedia (Assist: Coro); 78′ Hugo Boumous (Assist: Edu Bedia).
FC Goa storm to the top of the table and secure play-off qualification after easing past Kerala Blasters FC at the Fatorda.
Kerala was always going to be up against it playing FC Goa at home. The Gaurs have only lost once this season at home and with today’s win – six out of their nine wins have come at the Fatorda.
The recurring theme of tonight’s match was Ahmed Jahouh’s long balls into space in the wide areas and Jackichand Singh sprinting to it. With the midfield more congested than usual with Kerala playing a loosely knit 4-1-4-1 formation, the aerial passes paid dividends for Goa tonight. Jackichand Singh was released into space on the wings by Jahouh as early as in the 12th minute; however, the Manipuri winger’s attempt on goal came off the post.
As Goa continued to assert their dominance, Kerala’s Serbian forward Stojanovic scored against the run of play, but the goal was ruled offside incorrectly. Literally seconds later, some cruel poetic justice meant Goa scored at the other end to take the lead. Brandon Fernandes made a quick darting run past the defender on the left flank – just enough to put a great cross into Coro who scored with a fantastic header in the far corner. The Kerala defender Anas was in a great position to admire his marking as Coro ran around him to meet the ball like he wasn’t there.
A second goal followed a couple of minutes later and Goa were up 2-0 in the 25th minute. This time Anas and the Kerala keeper Dheeraj Singh combined to gift the goal. A high, wobbly back pass by Anas saw Dheeraj Singh make an equally bad pass straight into Coro while trying to keep the ball in.
Coro calmly passed the ball to Edu Bedia at the edge of box and Edu scored with a side-footed shot into an empty net.
As the running sum graph indicates, Goa took control of the game after taking the lead. Jahouh was pulling the strings in midfield and he pretty much had a retainer on possession in the match. While out of possession, Goa quickly applied pressure to win the ball back and kept Kerala’s feeble attempts to get back in the game at an arm’s length.
The second half trudged along and in the 78th minute, Hugo Boumous got himself a goal to make it 3-0. The Moroccan made a run from outside the box, casually skipped past a small crowd of Kerala defenders and scored.
As Kerala’s season continues to go from bad to worse, their shiny black away kit tonight will begrudgingly concede that orange is indeed the new black.
For FC Goa, the critical turnaround has been their defensive performance; especially compared to last season. They are tied with the other Top 3 in conceding the lowest goals in the current season and are on a run of five consecutive clean sheets. With the league’s top scorer in Coro, Goa have scored the most goals this season and also top the team leaderboard in chances created (xG).
The playoffs beckon for the Gaurs and with Bengaluru FC stuttering, they look like the strongest contenders for the title.
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