Kochi, Nov 6: A 57th minute goal by substitute Milagres Gonsalves helped Kerala Blasters FC start their home campaign with a 1-0 win over FC Goa at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium here Thursday.
It was a rather uneventful first half with both sides playing cautiously from the back. The visitors were the first to show any initiative.
Former Arsenal star Robert Pires was drafted straight back into the starting line-up in place of the injured Andre Santos.
Goa kept possession for longer periods but weren’t able to fashion a decent goal scoring chance. Penn Orji was central to the Kerala cause as he broke up the Goa attack time and again.
The closest either side came to a goal was right at the stroke of half time when Kerala forward C.S. Sabeeth found himself with only goalkeeper Jan Seda to beat but only managed to hit the crossbar.
The hosts came out in the second half with much more purpose as they pushed for the elusive goal.
But it was Goa who came closest to scoring. A cross from the left found Jewel Raja unmarked in the rival box but the ball was blasted out of play by an onrushing defender.
The resulting corner found the head of an unmarked Youness Bengelloun whose header went wide of the post. Thereafter, Kerala took control of the game and bombed forward continuously.
The persistence finally paid off when second half substitute Andrew Barisic put a ball across the box for an unmarked Gonsalves who easily tapped it into an empty net.
Kerala managed to hold on to their lead till the final whistle much to the joy of the home crowd. Goa, who remain rooted to the bottom of the table with four points, return home for a match against Mumbai City FC Nov 9.
Kerala will want to build on this win in their next home outing against Delhi Dynamos FC on the same day.