Kerala Blasters sealed a 1-0 victory against Hyderabad FC in the Indian Super League (ISL) on Sunday to return to the top of the table after seven years. While Adrian Luna pulled the strings in midfield, Alvaro Vazquez starred with a thunderous volley that turned out to be the winner.
Hyderabad FC looked like the team on top in the initial minutes of the first half. Aniket Jadhav and Nikhil Poojari troubled Kerala Blasters FC with runs off Bartholomew Ogbeche beyond the defensive line.
Jadhav was fouled in the seventh minute near the KBFC box and Edu Garcia stepped up to take the resulting free-kick. The Spaniard curled the ball from outside the area and goalkeeper Prabhsukhan Gill just managed to push the ball into the crossbar with his fingertips.
The Blasters managed to come out of the brief onslaught unharmed and steadily found their feet. Adrian Luna ran the show in Kerala Blasters FC midfield. In the 14th minute, Luna split open the Hyderabad FC defense with one of his mazy runs and threaded a through ball to Alvaro Vazquez. But the linesman had his flag up for offside while the replays didn't really back the decision.
The Kerala Blasters FC camp had further grievances a few minutes later. Rather than play the advantage, the referee blew the whistle after Chinglensana Singh fouled Jorge Diaz from behind. But the ball had dropped for Adrian Luna, who was through on goal.
But in the 24th minute, Kerala Blasters had a massive opportunity to take the lead through a diving header from Jorge Diaz. But Hyderabad FC shot-stopper Laxmikant Kattimani pulled off an incredible point-blank save.
The half continued with a similar progression with both teams exchanging blows like a high-intensity boxing bout. Kerala Blasters FC were emerging as the better side on the ball but lacked the cutting edge going forward.
In the 42nd minute, they finally pulled ahead through a vicious volley from none other than Alvaro Vazquez. From a throw-in, Sahal Abdul Samad flicked the ball into the Hyderabad FC box and the defenders failed to clear it properly. It fell for Vazquez, a little behind him to be precise, and the Spaniard lined himself up perfectly to thump home the volley.
Hyderabad FC went in for a late charge after falling behind but at the half-time whistle, Kerala Blasters FC walked back into the dugout with a 1-0.
Kerala Blasters FC hold on to their lead against Hyderabad FC in a chaotic second-half
Coming out in the second-half, Kerala Blasters didn't just opt to sit back and preserve their lead. They kept their defense tight but kept charging forward. However, Hyderabad FC were growing more desperate as each minute passed.
In the 51st minute, Kerala Blasters FC had a huge opportunity when Jorge Diaz outmuscled Chinglensana Singh and was through on goal. Rather than taking a shot, the Spaniard tried to cut back the ball. Hyderabad FC were defending in sixes-and-sevens and had to concede a foul to avoid the goal.
In the 60th minute, Hyderabad FC again came close when they won a free-kick on the left edge of the Kerala Blasters FC box. Bart Ogbeche received the ball and hit it hard and low towards the near post. But the ball deflected off a KBFC defender and rolled just past the far post.
With desperation kicking in for Hyderabad FC, the game slowly turned into a scrappy affair with the referee dishing out bookings left and right. But in the 80th minute, Hyderabad FC had a real opportunity to pull forward.
Kerala Blasters had a momentary defensive lapse and failed to deal with a ball played in their box. It fell to Javier Siverio, whose first attempt was blocked by the keeper, but he had a second crack at it from the rebound. The 24-year-old didn't catch it well and skipper Jessel Carneiro stepped in with a crucial goal-line clearance.
Hyderabad FC kept pouring men forward but Kerala Blasters FC always seemed to have a man behind the ball. Although the referee added five minutes at the end of regulation time, the game went deep into 100 minutes.
Jessel Carneiro suffered an injury deep into added time and had to be stretchered off the field. The extent of the injury will worry Ivan Vukomanovic and the KBFC camp in the coming days.
Irrespective of all the chaos, Kerala Blasters FC managed to hold on to their single goal until the referee blew the final whistle. The win has put them at the top of the table and leaves Hyderabad FC in third spot after 10 games.