Guwahati, Nov 29 (IANS) FC Goa’s Brazilian striker Reinaldo struck a hat-trick in a 5-1 mauling of Kerala Blasters here on Sunday to confirm their place in the Indian Super League (ISL) semi-finals. Pulga put the Blasters ahead in the second minute of action. Midfielder Joffre equalised 10 minutes later. Goa went 2-1 up in the 29th through Reinaldo who extended the margin on the 50th and the 61st at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium here.
Goa jumped to the second spot with 22 points from 13 matches after the win. Bottom-placed Kerala Blasters remained stuck on 12 points from as many matches and they are completely out of the reckoning for qualification. The Blasters made three changes to their side. Goalkeeper Stephen Bywater replaced Sandip Nandi, defender Peter Carvalho comes in for Joao Coimbra while forward Mohammed Rafi came in for midfielder Mehtab Hossain.
FC Goa have made just the two changes to their starting eleven. Foward Joffre replaced Dudu Omagbemi and defender Debabrata Roy was named in place of Raju Gaikwad. Blasters went ahead virtually as soon as the match began. Spaniard Pulga was involved in a nice build-up play to the goal before finishing the move with a volley at the near post in the 2nd minute.
But they couldn’t hold on to their lead and conceded just 10 minutes later. A cross from the right flank saw Brazilian striker Reinaldo lay the ball for an onrushing and unmarked Joffre who slotted home to score his first goal of the tournament. Goa then seized momentum with their second goal in the 29th minute. Reinaldo finished off with a deft left foot placement a superb interchange of passes also involving Brazilian Leo Moura and left winger Mandar Dessai.
Blasters went into the break preserving their lead but also received a huge lift when their opponents were reduced to 10 men. Midfielder Josu’s needless charge towards Joffre earned him straight red card. Josu was fighting for the ball with Joffre, both men pushing and shoving each other when he punched Joffre on the chest to earn the eviction.
The home side needed to galvanise themselves after the break being a goal and a man down. But instead conceded a third that virtually killed the contest. Dessai utilised the space offered on the left hand side by the Blasters defence to essay a through ball which Reinaldo simply rolled it in. His third goal was similar in style with forward C.S. Sabeeth providing an assist from the right with the Brazilian issuing a simple tap-in just past the hour mark. Dessai inflicted more humility on the Blasters with a left-footed strike in the 64th.