Hyderabad FC became the first team to qualify for the semi-finals of the ISL 2021-22 season with a 2-1 win over Kerala Blasters FC at the Athletic Stadium in Bambolim, Goa on Wednesday. The win meant Hyderabad FC stretched their lead at the top to four points; Jamshedpur is second with 31 points.
Ogbeche’s goal (28’) put Hyderabad FC in front in the first half before Javier Siverio (87’) secured the points with a late goal. Vincy Barretto (90+5’) then grabbed a consolation for Ivan Vukomanovic’s team.
There was little to separate Hyderabad FC and Kerala Blasters FC in the opening exchanges as the two teams assessed one another. Joao Victor had a half-chance in the 4th minute when he got on the end of a Mohammad Yasir free-kick but he headed it wide.
Alvaro Vazquez then tried to catch Laxmikant Kattimani who was off his line with a looping shot but Sauvik Chakraborty was alert to the danger and cleared it in the 19th minute.
Hyderabad FC then produced the most defining moment of the first half in the 18th minute when Ogbeche beautifully controlled Rohit Danu’s cushioned header before turning and shooting to find the back of the net.
Hyderabad FC who have failed to win just one match after taking the lead all season were almost pegged back in the 41st minute when Harmanjot Khabra’s header from Adrian Luna corner was punched in Chencho Gyeltshen’s path by Kattimani and the forward’s shot came off the crossbar.
Marquez’s men went into the break with their noses in front but they were forced into a change as Chakraborty had to be substituted for Sahil Tavora.
Hyderabad FC made a dominant start to the second half but were almost caught out at the back when Chencho got through on goal but saw his effort saved by Kattimani who did well to come off his line and close the striker’s angle in the 50th minute.
Two minutes later Khabra struck the crossbar from a Luna corner as the equaliser evaded the Blasters again.
Kerala Blasters FC then had Prabhsukhan Singh Gill to thank from preventing Hyderabad FC from doubling their lead as he produced two back-to-back saves to deny Danu and Ogbeche in the 58th minute.
It was Kattimani’s turn to earn his bread in the 73rd minute when he did well to push away a sweetly struck Vazquez volley that was goalbound. Vazquez then again tried his luck four minutes later but his shot flew just over the target. Hyderabad FC sealed the three points, three minutes from time when Siverio tapped home an inch-perfect cross from Nikhil Poojary to make it 2-0.
Kerala Blasters then bagged a late consolation goal through Barretto in the fifth minute of stoppage time but it was a case of too little, too late as Hyderabad FC walked home with the points and also a semi-final berth.
Hyderabad FC next face Jamshedpur FC in a crucial match for the top spot on March 1. As for Kerala Blasters FC, they are back in action on Saturday when they take on Chennaiyin FC.