AIFF Media Team
SHILLONG: Kerala Blasters entered the final of the ongoing 2017/18 U-18 Youth League after beating SAI Kolkata 2-1 in the first semifinal played at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Shillong on Thursday (May 24, 2018).
In a finely-poised tie, Kerala took the lead through Abdullah KS in the 39th minute which was cancelled out just two minutes later by Injaman Molla. However, Abdullah struck again early in the second-half to ensure his team’s progress to the final.
Both teams started nervously trying to gauge each other’s strengths in the initial quarter of the game. But as the game progressed Kerala gradually gained control over the proceedings.
The Southern outfit created numerous scoring opportunities, with Adarsh AS, Badusha TT and Abdullah all failing to make the most of their chances.
However, Kerala were rewarded for their persistent efforts when Abdullah found the back of the net in the 39th minute. The winger received a well-timed pass from Yashin Malik before rounding SAI custodian Tuhin Goswami to give Kerala the lead they were after.
Nonetheless, they soon allowed SAI to pull themselves back into finals contention when Injaman Molla put the ball past Ayush Das from inside the box just two minutes later.
With parity restored, SAI increased their pressure and attacked the rival goal ferociously going close on a few occasions. Kerala, however, hung in with great determination and showed fantastic resolve in defence in the face of relentless pressure as the first-half ended 1-1.
The tension increased after the break as both sides continued to search for a lead, with quick counter attacks taking the play from end-to-end.
SAI goalkeeper Tuhin Goswami had a blinder denying the impressive and relentless strike force of Adarsh, Badusha, Yasin and Abdullah time and again.
However, despite Tuhin being in-form as ever, he couldn’t hold Kerala off forever and as the clock headed into the 50th-minute mark Abdullah pounced on a loose ball to give his side the lead for the second time.
Kerala, thereafter, continued to attack the rival goal and had a couple of really close chances. First, Yasin skied his attempt from close before Muhammed Arfas VC had his long-range effort saved by Tuhin.
Meanwhile, SAI battled hard towards the end looking for an equalizer but Kerala held tight to their one-goal advantage to see themselves through to a final against either Shillong Lajong or East Bengal on Saturday.