Kerala Blasters gave themselves hope of securing a place in the semifinals of the Indian Super League (ISL) with a 2-0 victory over table-toppers FC Pune City at Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Kochi on Wednesday.
(45th minute) and Sanchez Watt (60th minute) scored for Kerala in a match they dominated for long spells and had a total of 32 shots on goal.
The win gave Kerala eight points from an equal number of matches and helped them climb out of the bottom of the IPL table. Considering this victory has come against one of the strongest team in the league, it will give the Sachin Tendulkar co-owned club plenty of confidence.
FC Pune City continue to lead the table with 13 points but significantly the league leaders have not won any of the three matches they have played away from home. They have lost two (against Chennaiyin FC and Kerala Blasters) and have played out a draw against FC Goa.
The Blasters had won just one of their seven matches in the first leg and looked to be hurtling out of the league. But on Wednesday, as new head coach Terry Phelan took charge for the first time, there never seemed to be any doubt that the hosts would pick up full points.
The hosts put up a dominating performance right from kick off and had plenty of chances inside the first half an hour. Josu Prieto’s short corner saw Mehtab Hossain switch the ball for Sandesh Jhingan but the Kerala defender’s attempt went over the bar.
A minute later, Dagnall’s curling cross for Sanchez Watt saw the Arsenal striker fail to get a touch. Watt went close again in the 21st minute and a minute later Dagnall dragged his attempt wide.
Kerala went ahead in the first minute of added time in the first half after Mohammad Rafi had amazingly came up with three back to back attempts, all of which were blocked. The goal, though, was deserving as Rahul Bheke’s cross from the right was headed away by Pune defender Roger Johnson only for Dagnall to slam home from close range.
The Blasters made it 2-0 in the 60th minute through Watt. The former Arsenal striker received a ball from Dagnall just inside the box, then took aim and sent the ball past Pune City goalkeeper Steve Simonsen.
Watt had ample chances to score a hattrick, but lacked the crucial finishing touch. In the 64th minute, Watt’s shot from the edge of the box after Rafi and Dagnall had done the spadework missed the target by a whisker.
Dagnall and Watt combined again in the 84th minute but Watt could not control an inch-perfect cross from Dagnall with only the goalkeeper in front of him.