FC Goa extended their unbeaten run to six thanks to a fighting 1-1 draw against Kerala Blasters. Down to 10 owing to a red card shown to Ivan Gonzalez in the second half, the Gaurs showed real steel to get a point.
Juan Ferrando was forced into a change in the starting line-up from the one that took to the field in the last two games. Brandon Fernandes’ injury, which had curtailed his time on the pitch last time around, was deemed serious enough to keep him out of the matchday squad.
That meant Devendra Murgaokar stepped in for his first-ever start in the Hero Indian Super League. The matchday squad also featured Dheeraj Singh Moirangthem on the bench for the first time.
The Gaurs started off on the front foot and got the lead within the opening half an hour but couldn’t keep the pace up as an untimely red card spoiled the plans for Juan Ferrando’s men. A resurgent Kerala found their groove in the second half and equalised via KP Rahul.
FC Goa were off to a fine start and nearly got their noses in front as early as the sixth minute. Exquisite interplay at the edge of the box saw Edu Bedia play Jorge Ortiz in behind the backline. The Spaniard’s shot beat the keeper before kissing both the posts and the crossbar and then rolling away to safety.
The Gaurs looked the favourites to get on to the scoresheet with Murgaokar and Romario both coming close. The ‘away’ side though wouldn’t have to wait long to get their noses in front.
A free-kick on the left flank was swung in by Ortiz in the 25th minute. The Spaniard’s attempt at putting the ball into a dangerous area took a wicked deflection off of Sahal Abdul Samad’s head and beat Albino Gomes in flight to give Goa the lead.
Kerala nearly got their equaliser in the 41st minute. A corner played in was fumbled by Naveen Kumar and bundled over the line by Bakary Koné. The goal though was ruled out due to a handball from the Burkina Faso international.
The Gaurs kept control of the game for the rest of the first-half, taking their one-goal lead into halftime.
The beginning of the second half saw the return of Igor Angulo as the Gaurs looked to build on their one-goal lead. It was, however, Kerala Blasters who struck first in the second half. Rahul KP scored for the second game running, this time running on and rising highest to head home from a Facundo Pereyra corner.
FC Goa responded immediately and carved out three chances within the next five minutes. However, some good keeping and last-ditch defending kept the game in the balance.
The game took another turn on the 65-minute mark as Ivan Gonzalez was shown red due to two yellows in quick succession, leaving the Spaniard bewildered.
Gary Hooper did get a couple of opportunities to get a shot on goal. The forward though lacked any confidence or composure to test the FC Goa goal. The last 30 odd minutes became a scrappy affair, characterised by frequent stoppages of play.
The point means that FC Goa further consolidates their position in the top three with 20 points from 13 games. Kerala Blasters meanwhile, goes up to 7th on the table with 14 points from their 13.
The Gaurs next return to action when they take on SC East Bengal on January 29. The match is scheduled for a 7:30pm IST kick off at the Fatorda.