Mumbai: Canadian striker Iain Hume became the hero of Kerala Blasters for the second game running as his lone first-half goal helped the visitors get the better of Mumbai City FC 1-0 in a rousing Indian Super League match on Sunday.
Hume, playing with a bandage around his head, took advantage of a quickly taken free-kick by teammate Courage Pekuson and sprinted forward to the bewilderment of the entire home side players before coolly slotting the ball past Mumbai custodian Amrinder Singh to the left corner in the 23rd minute of play.
Much as Mumbai protested as even the referee Pranjal Banerjee had not taken his position when the free-kick was taken by Pekuson from well outside the Mumbai penalty area, the goal was allowed to stand much to the chagrin of the home side players and eventually was the match-winner.
The victory enabled Kerala to draw level on points —14 — with Mumbai who, however, remained in fifth spot by virtue of a superior goal difference after suffering a second defeat of the season at the Mumbai Football Arena.
Kerala now take on Jamshedpur SC in another away game on 17 January while Mumbai take on second-placed Bengaluru FC at home a day later.
Kerala started off in blistering fashion, had the better share of the exchanges till late into the first half and also took the lead via Hume, the hat-trick man in the visitors' previous game against Delhi Dynamos.
Stung by the reversal Mumbai attacked with gusto and put the visitors' goal under pressure without succeeding to breach it. Their best chance towards the later stages of the half came when Thiago Santos was fed an aerial ball from mid-field.
But the Brazilian's angular try from the right was blocked with his right leg by Kerala custodian Subashish Roy Chowdhury who later spoilt his good show by his delaying tactics and was booked.
Early in the half Everton Santos and Emana Achille combined well to spell danger to the Kerala goal but the latter was foiled in the nick of time by a defender.
At the other end, a through pass by skipper Sandesh Jhingan released Hume who passed to Markos Sifneos whose try was blocked by a defender and the rebound by Jackichand Singh was easily covered and cleared by Mumbai custodian Amrinder.
Mumbai then wasted another chance when Balwant Singh's diving header off a long punt from midfield by the hard-working Sanju Pradhan went just wide of the left post.
Mumbai had yet another good chance to equalise early in the second half but Balwant's shot, off a headed pass by Everton Santos, was cleared on the goal-line with a header by defender Lalruatthara. A few minutes later Emana slotted the ball in but it was disallowed as the player was off-side.
Later, Thiago and Pekuson blasted the ball over the cross-piece at either end, the former off a cross from the left and the latter off a counter-attack down the middle.
With ten minutes remaining for the final whistle, Kerala secured a direct free kick from just outside the Mumbai box and Hume beat the wall only to be foiled by Amrinder with a dive to his left.
Mumbai made some substitutions, even leaving out captain Lucian Goian for the first time in the season, in search of the equaliser and nearly did it when substitute Leo Costa of Brazil struck a thundering 30-yard left-footed shot into the upright with a couple of minutes remaining for the end.
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Updated Date: Jan 14, 2018 22:48:16 IST