Kerala Blasters score a late goal to defeat Bengaluru 3-2

Kerala Blasters controlled the pace of the game in the middle to win the match

Kerala Blasters came from behind and shrugged off the threat of a late draw to beat Bengaluru 3-2 in their ISL 2022-23 fixture at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Kochi on Sunday. Marko Leskovic, Dimitrios Diamantakos, and Apostolos Giannou’s goals made Sunil Chhetri and Javi Hernandez’s strikes redundant.

Kerala Blasters named an unchanged lineup that beat Jamshedpur 1-0 in their previous fixture as Prabhsukhan Singh Gill guarded the goal and Sandeep Singh, Hormipam Ruivah, Marko Leskovic, and Nishu Kumar formed the back four. Rahul KP, Ivan Kalyuzhni, Jeakson Singh, and Sahal Abdul Samad played as the midfield quartet assisting Adrian Luna and Dimitris Diamantokas upfront.

Bengaluru, too, took to the field with the same starting eleven that lost 0-1 to ATK Mohun Bagan as the quartet of Namgyal Bhutia, Aleksandar Jovanovic, Sandesh Jhingan, and Prabir Das shielded Gurpreet Singh Sandhu between the sticks. Danish Farooq, Javi Hernandez, and Suresh Wangjam formed the midfield trio entrusted with playing passes to the front three of Sunil Chhetri, Roy Krishna, and Naorem Singh. 

Kerala Blasters got a chance to take the lead in the 2nd minute of the game when Diamantokas threaded a through ball for Jeakson to capitalize. However, the youngster took too many steps to control the ball and failed to fire a shot in a timely manner.

Bengaluru won a penalty out of nowhere in the 14th minute as Chhetri sidestepped the ball past Prabhsukhan who had to clip him down as he was through on goal. Chhetri slammed the ball into the bottom corner to give the away side the lead.

The goal rang a warning bell to Kerala Blasters as they pressed forward with more intensity. Adrian Luna and Rahul KP combined well in the 22nd minute for a shot at goal but the latter’s effort was inches wide.

Jhingan saw a yellow card in the 24th minute to bring down the last man Luna and the latter struck the woodwork off the resultant free kick. Marko Leskovic pounced on the loose ball to slam it past the keeper and equalize for the hosts a minute later.

Just when it seemed both the teams would head into the tunnel at level peggings, Kerala took the lead after Diamantokas smashed home Luna’s low cross from a hand-shaking distance in the 43rd minute.

Kerala nearly scored their third of the night in the 56th minute when Sahal found himself one-on-one with the keeper. However, the referee correctly raised his flag to stop his run.

The hosts got their much-awaited third goal in the 70th minute when Diamantokas dispossessed Bengaluru in their own half and passed it towards Apostolos Giannou, who came in just two minutes prior. Giannou made no mistake in slotting it past the keeper at the near post to send the home fans in frenzy.  

Bengaluru pulled one back in the 82nd minute after Kerala’s failed clearance saw the ball lobbed in front of Javi outside the box and the Spaniard struck powerfully to find the back of the net. However, the Blues failed to draw inspiration from the goal and wasted a couple of opportunities in the six minutes of added time to lose 3-2. 

Kerala Blasters climb to the fourth spot on the back of the win as they have 18 points from nine games. Their next fixture is against Chennaiyin next Monday in Chennai and Ivan Vukomanovic would be hoping that his side returns home with another three points against a team from South India. 

After losing four on the trot, Bengaluru bounced back strongly with a 2-0 win over Goa. However, they seemed to have lost their momentum with back-to-back losses. Occupying the ninth spot with nine points from nine games, the Blues will be hoping for a change in fortunes when they clash swords with tenth-placed Jamshedpur on Saturday.