Ashique Kuruniyan scores on both ends as Bengaluru and Kerala Blasters play out a 1-1 draw

A moment of madness from Albino Gomes gifted Bengaluru the lead

Kerala Blasters and Bengaluru played out a 1-1 draw in the first Southern Derby of the 2021-22 Indian Super League season with Ashique Kuruniyan scoring for the Blues and at his own end as well four minutes later to restore parity.

After conceding five goals in the first two matches, Bengaluru manager Marco Pezzaiouli dropped his trust in the overseas central defensive pairing as Gabonese central defender Yrondu Musavu-King was replaced by Pratik Chaudhari. Iman Basafa replaced the injured Jayesh Rane In midfield and Cleiton Silva was also rewarded in the starting XI in place of Prince Ibara after his brilliant cameo against Odisha.

Kerala Blasters manager Ivan Vukomanovic made a couple of changes to his starting XI as Ayush Adhikari made way for Lalthathanga Khawlring in the middle of the park and Alvaro Vazquez replaced Jorge Pereyra Diaz as Adrain Luna’s partner up front.

Being a game of nerves, the first Southern Derby of ISL 2021-22 had a cagey start. Tuskers duo Luna and Jeakson Singh tried their luck from outside the box but their ambitious efforts went wide. Luna also played a fantastic lob for Vincy Barretto in the 9th minute but Gurpreet Singh Sandhu came quickly off his line to avert the danger.

Kerala midfielder Sahal Abdul Samad produced the highlight of the first half in the 23rd minute when he dribbled past Roshan Naorem with perfectly executed trickery but the move lacked an end product as Samad’s cross fell to a player in a blue jersey.

Hardly a couple of minutes later, Udanta Singh showcased his abilities on the Blues’s right-wing as his raw pace helped him put in a good cross for Chhetri, but a great interception from Harmanjot Khabra ended the attack.

Cleiton Silva trying to get his shot away against Kerala Blasters

Like the first half, the second period of the game started with a couple of mistimed and misdirected shots by Silva but the Brazilian forward’s liveliness was troubling the Kerala defense. The Brazilian was far more clinical in the 57th minute when he played a precise diagonal ball to find Singh in open space down the right-wing but the Indian international failed to trouble Albino Gomes.

Not afraid of taking bold decisions, Blues’ German coach replaced Chhetri with Prince Ibara around the hour mark and Basafa had to way for Danish Farooq to maintain the maximum overseas players limit. Vukomanovic responded almost instantaneously by replacing Barretto with the more experienced Prasanth Karuthadathkuni, while five minutes later, he introduced Argentine frontman Diaz and Nishu Kumar from the bench.

Bengaluru’s constant attacks were troubling the Blasters around the 80-minute mark and Albino Gomes bailed his team out on one occasion making a point-blank save. In the 84th minute, Kuruniyan did a couple of stepovers and took a shot from outside the box which was spilled by the Blasters goalkeeper into his own net.

With attackers of both teams lacking conviction, it took two individual howlers for the game to liven up with Kuruniyan witnessing the journey of being a hero to villain in just four minutes cutting short his celebrations. 

In the 88th minute of the game, former Bengaluru defender Nishu played in a dangerous lobbed ball for Mario Leskovic and the Croatian central defender failed to get his shot in but saw Kuruniyan’s botched clearance attempt hitting the roof of the net and crossing the line in agony for the Blues.

The draw gets Vukomanovic’s Blasters to eighth place and their next assignment is against Odisha on Sunday whilst Bengaluru is 3rd and will take on reigning champions Mumbai City in the late kick-off on Saturday.