Kochi: Kerala Blasters FC secured a 2-1 come-from-behind win against Chennaiyin FC in the Indian Super League (ISL) at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium here on Tuesday.
Abdenasser El Khayati netted the fastest goal of the season to put the visitors in front before Adrian Luna cancelled it out with a stunning curling effort in the 38th minute, and then set up Rahul KP’s strike in the 64th minute.
Two minutes into the game, El Khayati silenced the stands with his ninth goal of the season. Victor Mongil failed to deal with a long ball that was eventually played into the path of El Khayati by Petar Sliskovic. The Dutchman danced with the ball at the edge of the box before dispatching it into the net off the upright.
Four minutes later, Sliskovic’s low diving header went on target at the near post but Gill was alert and got his arms behind it. At the other end of the pitch, Diamantakos overpowered Hakhamaneshi and squared it across goal to Rahul KP, but the winger failed to keep his effort on target.
Kerala Blasters were constantly pushing for an equaliser and came close in the 20th minute after Kaliuzhnyi’s pass was flicked by Rahul KP into the path of Nishu Kumar, whose eventual shot was saved at the near post.
Rahul KP was involved in another move minutes later when his cross was cushioned and squared to Diamantakos by Luna in the box. The striker’s low shot rolled inches wide of the goal.
The stadium erupted in the 38th minute when parity was restored. Anirudh Thapa intercepted Rahul KP’s pass to Samad inside the box before the stray ball went straight to Luna, who pounced on it and curled it into the top right corner.
In first-half stoppage time, a pinpoint cross from Akash Sangwan came straight to Vincy Barretto. The winger was right in front of goal and side-footed it towards the target, only to meet a superb save from Gill.
Seconds after Brdaric threw a couple of substitutions on the pitch to change things around, the game turned on its head. Adrian Luna whipped a cross into the box from the right flank before Rahul KP squeezed it past Samik Mitra in the 64th minute.
In the final quarter of the game, El Khayati and substitute Prasanth K kept trying to find a gap in the Blasters’ defence, but the hosts kept their shape and were able to keep the Marina Machans at bay.
Three points puts Kerala Blasters four points clear of FC Goa and ATK Mohun Bagan in third place. The Blasters could confirm their playoff qualification against arch-rivals Bengaluru FC in their next game on February 11.
Chennaiyin FC’s playoff race is now down to only a mathematical possibility. The Marina Machans will face East Bengal FC next on February 12, who could be equal on points with them with a win on Wednesday against NorthEast United FC.