Kerala Blasters rode on Dimitrios Diamantakos' brace to defeat NorthEast United FC and move up to the third spot in the Indian Super League (ISL) on Sunday.
The Greek striker scored two goals in as many minutes to secure a 2-0 win and three crucial points for the Blasters, who had lost their last two games.
The hosts made six changes as Karanjit Singh made his Blasters debut, also his 50th ISL appearance, between the sticks. The visitors made four changes as Arindam Bhattacharja replaced Mirshad Michu in goal. New signing Joseba Beitia was given his first start as NorthEast United were without their suspended skipper Wilmar Gil.
The hosts' plans paid off early as they dominated possession and had plenty of opportunities in the final third. Most of their chances came from the wide areas with Bryce Miranda and Rahul KP tearing down the flanks. Giannou and Adrian Luna missed opportunities from a couple of low crosses, while Bhattacharja denied Diamantakos five minutes from the break.
However, Arindam was beaten by Diamantakos twice, within two minutes, to change the complexion of the game just before halftime.
The first goal came after a quick Jessl Carneiro throw-in to Miranda, which the NEUFC defence failed to deal with. The winger's eventual cross was met by a thumping header from Diamantakos.
The Blasters had a 2-0 lead just two minutes later as Luna lofted a ball through to Diamantakos, who skipped the offside trap, took his time, and smashed the ball in at the near post.
It was a successful homecoming for the @KeralaBlasters who got back to winning ways thanks to their 5️⃣th successive home victory! ����
Watch the full highlights! ��️#KBFCNEU #HeroISL #LetsFootball #KeralaBlasters #NorthEastUnitedFC
- Indian Super League (@IndSuperLeague) January 30, 2023
The second half started exactly the way the first half ended as the Blasters continued to pile the pressure in the opening five minutes.
The visiting side had their first shot on target in the 68th minute when Romain Philippoteaux's curling effort was saved by Karanjit. NEUFC had a fine chance in the 77th minute when Parthib Gogoi whipped a low cross into the box that beat Luna and fell to Philippoteaux right in front of goal. However, the forward missed the target from close range.
The Blasters dominated the second half as well, with Ruivah Hormipam coming the closest to adding a third when his header struck the crossbar in stoppage time.
Kerala Blasters FC will next play East Bengal FC on February 3, while NorthEast United FC face Jamshedpur FC on February 4.