Goals from Jorge Ortiz (25') and Rahul KP (57') saw FC Goa and Kerala Blasters share the spoils in a 1-1 draw at Bambolim on Saturday.
Goa started with what they do the best - quick, short passes, maintaining ball possession and keeping Kerala on the back foot.
Kerala were lucky not to concede early in the game. The on-field chemistry between Alberto Noguera and Ortiz has been creating problems for opponents and on Saturday, the duo combined once again early on. Ortiz played a one-two with Noguera at the edge of the box, and shot past the keeper Albino Gomes. The effort hit the woodwork not once, but thrice before the ball bounced back into play.
Goa continued their surge with Ortiz and Noguera combining once again. The latter then crossed the ball into the box, which Devendra Murgaokar headed straight to the keeper.
They finally saw their dominance pay off in the 25th minute from a set piece. Ortiz's freekick from the left took a slight deflection off Sahal Abdul Samad's head and looped over a stranded Gomes.
Kerala then had a goal disallowed after Bakary Kone thigh-elbowed a Facundo Pereyra cross into the net. The assistant spotted the infringement, and on his advice, the referee ruled it out.
Kerala started the second half better, and KP Rahul's goal was their reward. Pereyra delivered a lovely whipped corner, and Rahul timed his run, and jump, to perfection as he headed it into the net delivered yet another beautiful cross through a corner. Rahul timed his run to perfection at the far post and headed the ball past Goa keeper Naveen Kumar.
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As Kerala gained momentum, Goa suddenly found themselves on the backfoot. Gonzalez received a quick double booking to reduce them to 10 men. Gonzalez was initially cautioned for his tackle on Gary Hooper, after which the referee booked him again after Gonzalez touched him while protesting.
Goa were forced to defend in the final quarter of the game as Kerala tried to take advantage of the extra man. However, their poor decision making in the final third saw them squandering a couple of chances and the game ended all square.
The result means Kerala move to seventh with 14 points in 13 games, while Goa stay in third with 20 points in 13. Kerala face Jamshedpur next on the 27th, while Goa play East Bengal on the 29th.