Pune: CK Vineeth’s last minute winner that earned a “special” liking from head coach David James helped Kerala Blasters remain in contention for the play-offs with a close 2-1 victory over FC Pune City at the Shiv Chhatrapati Sports Complex here on Friday.
After ending goalless in the first-half, Jackichand Singh’s strike had sparked life into the contest in the 58th minute before Emiliano Alfaro levelled terms from the spot. But Vineeth’s 90th minute goal from outside the box send the travelling fans into a frenzy.
“I actually tell them not to shoot from outside the box. They didn’t listen to me. But it was what we needed to beat a very good Pune City side,” said the former Liverpool goalkeeper. This would be one mistake he would perhaps never regret.
The win took Kerala to fifth on 20 points from 14 games. Pune however remained third standing on 22 points after 13 matches. It was an opportunity for them to consolidate their position in the top four, but instead succumbed to their fourth defeat in eight home matches.
After a barren first-half, the game burst out open in the second which had three goals and also Pune skipper Marcelinho hitting the upright twice.
Both came in the dying minutes and before Vineeth had netted the winner. While the first was a venomous attempt the second was more powerful, but both struck the upright before going out of play. The Brazilian also drew a close save from Blasters goalkeeper Subhasish Roy Chowdhary.
He was however lucky to be on the pitch after a two-legged tackle on Prasanth, for which he just received a yellow. Instead it was his manager who was send-off for a record second time in the competition after half-time confrontation with the fourth official.
Minutes after the send-off, Uruguayan Emiliano Alfaro had levelled terms for the hosts inbthr 78th minute from the spot after Chowdhary had brought him down in the box. He stood up and converted for his seventh goal of the season, but it was not enough for a Pune win.
Earlier, it was substitute Guðjón Baldvinsson who found Jackichand Singh on the edge of the box and the Indian rifled one into the net. It was a class of goal and just showed what the young Indian possess in his armoury.
But with things standing at 1-1, the game seemed well poised for a draw before Vineeth scored a blinder. The Keralaite boy has time and again saved the Blasters and on Friday it was no different. His controll to bring down a long ball into his feet, before firing one inside, spoke the volumes of his ability.
Six win in six games is what James had asked from his players and now with five remaining — “Our task is quite simple, going towards the end of the season – win every game,” concluded the Englishman.