Kerala Blasters trounce East Bengal 3-1 in ISL 2022-23 season opener

Kerala Blasters started their ISL 2022-23 campaign with a 3-1 win

Kerala Blasters rode on Ivan Kalyuzhny’s brace to start their ISL 2022-23 campaign with a 3-1 win over East Bengal at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Kochi on Friday. Adrian Luna broke the deadlock in the 72nd minute while Alexandre Lima pulled one back for the visiting side. 

Kerala Blasters coach Ivan Vukomanovic fielded his side in a 4-3-3 formation with Prabhsukhan Gill guarding the sticks. Jessel Carneiro and Harmanjot Khabra bombarded and shielded the flanks while Hormivam Ruipah and Marko Leskovic took their spot in the heart of the defense. Jeakson Singh, Sahal Abdul Samad, and Puitea formed the midfield trio while Adrian Luna, Dimitris Diamantakos, and Apostolos Giannou shared the striking responsibilities. 

East Bengal coach Stephen Constantine fielded his side in a 4-4-2 formation as Kamaljit Singh donned the gloves. Ankit Mukherjee, Lalchungnunga, Ivan Gonzalez, and Charis Kyriakou played as defenders while debutant Tuhin Das alongside Sumeet Passi, Souvik Chakraborty, and Alexandre Lima played in the midfield. The striking duties were shared by Cleiton Silva and VP Suhair. 

The first chance of the game fell to the home side in the 6th minute when Luna found Leskovic with a vicious corner kick. However, the Croatian blazed his header wide from a hand-shaking distance. 

The Red and Golds, too, got their moment to go upfront two minutes later when Alex Lima intercepted a ball in the centre of the park and skedaddled past two markers before firing a shot from outside the box. However, Gill was up to the task to collect the ball before it trickled into the net. 

Puitea and Tuhin Das went for glory from distance inside the first half but both their efforts were off target. Kerala Blasters mainly targeted East Bengal’s right flank as Mukherjee and Passi looked shaky but their forwards failed to make it count. The scoreline at half-time remained nil-nil as both coaches had plenty of work to do in the dressing room. 

Kerala Blasters made their intentions clear five minutes after the restart of play as Giannou fired a volley from inside the box but Kamaljit was equally up to the task to keep the shot at bay. Kamaljit was once again called into action four minutes later when Luna powered a shot from outside the box after East Bengal’s Gonzalez conceded possession in the final third.

The Tuskers enjoyed possession in the second half and plugged the gaps to prevent the opposition from foraying forward. Their efforts finally reaped fruits in the 72nd minute when Khabra lobbed a long ball from his own half and the entire East Bengal defense was caught napping. Luna shrugged off the challenge of Mukherjee before nestling the ball into the net as he dedicated the goal to his late daughter who passed away in July at the age of six. 

Ukrainian midfielder Ivan Kalyuzhny replaced Giannou in the 80th minute and found his name in the scoresheet two minutes later after making a run through the middle and unleashing a powerful shot from outside the box.

East Bengal was quick to respond as Alex Lima capitalized on a failed Kerala Blasters clearance to thump the ball home six minutes later. With plenty of time and space on offer, Kalyuzhny impressed the Manjappada crowd by curling his shot from outside the box into the top corner to finish off the game in style. 

Stephen Constantine will need to regroup his side when the Red and Gold Brigade square off against Goa on Wednesday at the Salt Lake Stadium in Kolkata. They need to put this loss behind them and chin up when they take on the Gaurs in front of the home crowd.  

Kerala Blasters, on the other hand, will take on familiar rivals ATK Mohun Bagan next Sunday in the evening kickoff. Can Ivan Vukomanovic build on the momentum or will Juan Ferrando get the last laugh?