Bengaluru, Karnataka: Bengaluru FC edged out Kerala Blasters FC 1-0 at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium in Bengaluru on Saturday to register their second victory of the Hero Indian Super League (Hero ISL) 2019-20. Blues’ captain Sunil Chhetri scored the only goal of the match in the second-half and helped his team register their fourth triumph over their bitter Southern rivals in five meetings. For Kerala, it was another unsuccessful attempt at finding their first-ever Hero ISL victory against Bengaluru.
Kerala, despite being away to the home of the reigning champions, took the initiative and made a bright start. The Blues responded soon enough as both sides traded phases of dangerous possession early on. The biggest chance in the opening 15 minutes fell Kerala’s way. A nice bit of interplay between Bartholomew Ogbeche and Messi Bouli, opened up space for the latter inside the box. The Cameroonian forward tried to fizz in a dangerous cross for Ogbeche. The Kerala skipper tried to meet it at full stretch but was centimeters short of getting the telling touch on the ball.
Approaching the 30-minute mark, Bengaluru managed to get the ball in the Kerala net after Raphael Augusto headed in an inch-perfect Udanta Singh cross. But the goal was eventually disallowed since the officials deemed Udanta had run it out of play before putting it in the box.
Shortly after, Gurpreet Singh Sandhu’s sloppy clearance almost opened up another opportunity for Ogbeche but the Bengaluru custodian made amends by coming out and hoofing the ball away just in time. In the 36th minute, the home team had a golden opportunity to take the lead as Augusto cut one back for Albert Serran, who was lingering inside the Kerala box following a corner. It only needed a proper nod to direct the cross into the Kerala net, but the ball was just behind Serran and the Spaniard ended up heading it over, much to the anguish of the home fans.
Six minutes later, it was the away fans’ turn to feel the anguish as Bouli stayed on side from a TP Rehenesh goal kick and was free on goal. With just Gurpreet to beat the striker ended up skying his effort into the South Stand. The first 45 minutes, perhaps miraculously, ended goalless.
The second-half had the same intensity as the first-half as the two sides traded blows. As the match progressed, however, Bengaluru slowly grew into the contest and kept knocking at the door. The Kerala defence was eventually unlocked in the 55th minute from a set piece. Dimas Delgado’s floated corner found Sunil Chhetri inside the Kerala box and the 35-year-old made no mistakes as he buried his diving header into the goal to score the match’s first and his fourth Hero ISL goal against Kerala.
The home team could have gone two up minutes later but Dimas’ shot was valiantly blocked off by Raju Gaikwad. With the control of the match seemingly slipping away, Eelco Schattorie introduced Sahal Abdul Samad from the bench following the hour-mark in an attempt to inject some more creativity in midfield. The away side came close to an equaliser in the 69th minute after Bouli picked Serran’s pocket on the wing and found Rahul KP inside the Bengaluru box. The youngster did well to make space for a shot in the crowded box but dragged it wide.
Bengaluru, meanwhile, kept probing for the second goal and it took Rehenesh’s toes to deny Augusto in the 74th minute. Kerala did manage to get the ball in Bengaluru’s goal in added time, as Ogbeche tapped in Rahul KP’s cross, but the goal was disallowed as the latter was ruled offside.
With the win, Bengaluru moved to nine points – level with table toppers ATK, who will be in action on Sunday.