New Delhi: Kerala Blaster FC booked their berth in semi-finals by defeating North East United FC 1-0 in the ongoing Indian Super League on Sunday at Jawahar Lal Nehru Stadium. The home team didn't disappoint the crowd who came in large numbers to support them lived up to their expectation to make their way into the semis.
It was CK Vineeth who scored the match winning goal in the 66th minute and made sure that Kerala Blasters are going into the semis. While the Blasters needed only one point to qualify for the semis, NorthEast United needed all three points to get past the opposition.
From the start of the game both the teams looked a little nervous and trying to gauge the strength of the opposition. Kerala Blaster could have surged ahead of North East United in the third minute when through Haitin international Duckens Nazon, but his attempt on goal was palmed away by NorthEast goalkeeper TP Rehenesh. Apart from the early chance, not many opportunities were presented by either teams.
Game got into decisive moment when Mohd. Rafi switched play and found Vineeth on the left. the winger did well and cut inside switch the ball to his right foot and take an unexpected grounder which beats the rival goalkeeper. The goal left the visitors stunned and they started to lose hope and after going down by a goal. Coach NeloVingada's desperate attempts to bring NortheEast back in the game were not executed on field as his players continued to create any real opportunity.
As NorthEast tried their best to score an equalizer, Kerela Blaster, instead of being too defensive, went in search of another goal to take the unaccessible lead. Kervens Belfort saw his attempt go straight into the hands of goalkeeper Rehenesh two minutes after taking the lead and in the 75th minute, substitute Antonio German brought the best out of Rehenesh who kept his team alive with a diving save.
Goalkeeper Rehemnesh best save of the day came just three minutes before the game when he palmed Mohd. Rafi's header from point blank range on to the post. But in the end it was Kerala Blasters who came out as winners and also double their chances of sealing their place in their second final appearance in last three years.
The win puts Kerala on 22 points, and they will now meet third placed Delhi Dynamos in a two legged semi final battle. In the other semi-final fixture, league leaders Mumbai City FC will face Atletico de Kolkata for a spot in the final.
(With ANI inputs)