Spirited Bengaluru spoils Kerala Blasters’ plans with a 2-2 draw

Both teams are currently unlikely to make it to the quarter-finals

Despite fielding a strong team in the 2023 Durand Cup, Kerala Blasters stand on the verge of a shock elimination from the group stage after being held to a 2-2 draw by Bengaluru in their second Group C match. Emmanuel Justine and Mohammad Aimen scored for the Tuskers, while for the Blues, Edmund Lalrindika and Ashish Jha were on the scoresheet.

After suffering a defeat in the Kerala Derby in the last fixture, the Tuskers’ assistant coach Frank Dauwen named a strong line-up for this match. Although Adrian Luna was the sole overseas player, experienced players like Pritam Kotal and Prabir Das were handed starts.

On the other hand, the head coach of Bengaluru’s developmental squad, Bibiano Fernandes named a promising team with a few unknown names. Although he cost his team crucial points in the last game, Parag Shrivas featured in the starting XI.

Bengaluru had an early chance in just the third minute of the match when Robin Yadav made a darting run down the right flank before crossing it for Salam Johnson Singh, but the Manipuri attacker’s strike was not on target.

Five minutes later, it was Kerala’s turn to get into the act. Luna delivered an inch-perfect cross from the right flank for Justine, and while the latter did well to keep his shot on target, Amrit Gope pulled off a great save for the Blues.

The pressure kept on mounting on the Bengaluru goal and the Blues eventually crumbled in the 14th minute. A precise ball from the deep found Justine unmarked, and the Nigerian striker did his best to impress again in his trial period by putting his shot past Gope.

Amrit Gope came to Bengaluru’s rescue on multiple occasions

Dauwen’s team could have had a second when Justine found himself in space again, but instead of having a go himself, he chose to pass the ball to Danish Farooq this time around. However, the Kashmiri midfielder could not score against his former employers as his strike was saved by Gope.

For the next few minutes, ball possession was mostly in Kerala Blasters’ favour until Bengaluru struck completely against the run of play in the 38th minute. Bekey Oram, who is having a good campaign, threaded a long ball that found Lalrindika in space, and the latter did the rest by launching the ball into the back of the net.

Like the first half, the second half also started with a flurry of opportunities for Dauwen’s side. After receiving a pass from Justine, Vibin Mohanan laid the ball for Rahul KP, who could not keep his shot on target.

The missed chances came back to haunt the Tuskers yet again, as the Blues scored their second goal in the 52nd minute. Having scored the first goal, Lalrindika provided the assist this time around as he launched a cross for Ashish after running down the left flank. While the initial attempt was dealt with by a Kerala defender, Ashish managed to recycle the opportunity before scoring the goal.

The Blasters could have struck back just two minutes later, as Danish showed his trickery by threading a pass for Justine through two Bengaluru defenders. However, the Nigerian stumbled just when he was readying to launch a powerful strike.

Since then, the game was all about Kerala’s attackers, which eventually paid off in the 84th minute. Luna, who might not have had the best of games, came clutch by playing an accurate pass for Aimen before the local lad struck his hot past Gope.

The momentum could have even thwarted Kerala Blasters towards a victory, but an untimely red card spoiled their plans. Having already booked once early in the game, Ruivah Hormipam got a second yellow card when he fouled Monirul Molla just two minutes after his team scored the equaliser.

Despite playing with a numerical disadvantage, Kerala created one last opportunity in the 95th minute. Luna played a dangerous corner kick which found Kotal in open space, but the veteran full-back’s header was saved by Gope.

With this draw, Kerala Blasters now have only 1 point from 2 games and are placed last in the Group C standings. They will now take on the Indian Air Force on Monday while Bengaluru, second in Group C with 2 points from as many games, will face Gokulam Kerala on Tuesday.