The wonder goal scored by Sahal Abdul Samad after dribbling past three Mumbai City FC defenders not only handed Kerala Blasters a vital lead, but it destroyed the confidence of a side which plays in the prestigious AFC Champions League as well.
Sahal’s brilliant solo goal jolted the Mumbai’s backline which was fully focused on the task at hand; keeping the marauding Vazquez-Pereyra duo in check. Mumbai never recovered from that shock as they struggled to find rhythm and space thereafter. Vazquez doubled the lead from the penalty spot in the 45th minute to douse Mumbai’s hopes of getting something out of the match. The Spaniard embodies the term ‘fox in the box’. When he has the ball at his feet, he can hoodwink any defender. He can delude even those watching the match on TV with his deceptive body movements!
Although Diego Mauricio converted a penalty in the 71st minute to pull one back for Mumbai, Vukomanovic’s boys did not let them off the hook. Blasters had defeated Mumbai by 3-0 in the first leg, but that was not a do-or-die encounter. With this 3-1 win over the Islanders, Blasters have moved to the brink of a play-off berth. The Yellow Brigade will be high on confidence when they take on FC Goa in their last match of the league stage on Sunday.
(The writer is a former captain of the Indian football team)