The battle for the last semifinal slot in the 2021-22 Indian Super League will go down to the wire after Kerala Blasters defeated Mumbai City FC 3-1 to go ahead of the defending champions to fourth place on the points chart with one round remaining.
Kerala Blasters will play FC Goa in their final league game, while Mumbai, who is in fifth place with 31 points from 19 games, plays Hyderabad FC in their final league game, hoping Kerala loses to Goa and they win against Hyderabad.
All of this could already be over this Sunday if Mumbai fails to win against Hyderabad.
Story of the match
Both teams began cautiously in the opening exchanges before Sahal displayed individual brilliance to help Kerala take the lead.
Sahal robbed the ball from Cassio Gabriel, twisting and turning past the Brazilian and a couple of more Mumbai shirts before smashing a low drive past Mohamad Nawaz, who was maybe blinded by the defenders in front of him as the ball nestled into the net.
It was Sahal’s fifth goal of the season, highlighting his improved form.
Mumbai attempted an immediate comeback, but Kerala extended their advantage, albeit by penalties after Mourtada Fall took him down inside the box.
The Spaniard was calm from the start, pausing in his run-up to send Nawaz the wrong way.
Kerala led 2-0 at the halfway break.
Kerala almost scored again at the start of the second period, but Nawaz saved Luna’s excellent strike from outside the box.
The yellow shirts didn’t have to wait long for the third goal, with Nawaz making the most of a simple clearing after Fall back passed to him.
Vazquez didn’t need a second invitation to slot home into an open goal.
Mumbai equalized after Mauricio fell down inside the box from what appeared to be a Ruivah Hormipam shove, but as Kerala players challenged, the referee pointed to the spot.
Mauricio went up and scored from the penalty spot to make it 3-1.
Luna should have scored seconds later, but Nawaz scuffed his free-kick well wide of the post as Kerala held on to win 3-1 and improve their prospects in the semifinals.
Last year’s defending champions could very well be heading back home. They need to win their game and hope Kerala can drop points.
Their destiny is not in their hands, but for Kerala, that’s not the case.
Win the last match against Goa and they go through!