Kerala Blasters FC came from behind to strike twice in the second half and get back to winning ways with a 2-1 victory over Odisha FC at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium here in the Indian Super League (ISL) match on Friday night.
Certain players take their game a level up against specific opponents, and Diego Mauricio shares a similar equation with the Blasters. The Brazilian striker headed into this game with five goals in as many encounters against the team. Right from the offset, he looked determined to add to that tally. His dynamic footwork often creates concerns for the opposition’s backline, and this game was no different.
In the 16th minute, Mauricio slowed slick footwork to make his way through Hormipam Ruivah and Pritam Kotal before slotting the goal past Kerala’s onrushing goalkeeper Sachin Suresh. The custodian could have held his line instead of charging ahead, but he compensated for that with his tremendous shot-stopping skills merely a few minutes later.
Naocha Singh handled the ball inside the 18-yard box, leading to a spot-kick for the Juggernauts. Mauricio stepped up to bag his brace, but Suresh dived to his right and stopped the ball from hitting the back of the net. Isak Vanlalruatfela tried to pounce upon the rebound but Suresh showed quick reflexes to make another save and prevent the Blasters from doubling their lead.
Kerala had to call up their Greek forward Dimitrios Diamantakos to draw the scores level. Adrian Luna pulled off a quick free-kick, and played a pass to Daisuke Sakai who put the ball through the Odisha defence for the striker. Diamantakos made the correct diagonal run inside the box and struck it into the net to secure the equaliser.
Luna led his pack with aplomb thereafter, riding that momentum to keep on exerting pressure on the Odisha defence. The Juggernauts had won a free kick but Kerala struck back against the flow of the game with some flawless passing moves.
Luna received the ball in the perfect goal-scoring position, and he optimised that with a neat shot that beat Odisha custodian Amarinder Singh to the goal in the 84th minute. With the jam-packed crowd getting behind the Blasters, the home team players held on to the lead to give their head coach Ivan Vukomanovic a sweet welcome back to the touchline.
The Blasters will now travel to take on East Bengal FC on November 4 for their next fixture, whereas Odisha FC will be hosting Bengaluru FC on October 31.