Kerala Blasters 2 [Veendorp 52′ (OG), Luna 69′] – 1 Bengaluru FC [Curtis Main 90′]
Kerala Blasters FC rode on two second half goals to beat Bengaluru FC by 2-1 at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Kochi in the opening fixture of the Indian Super League 2023-24 season. Blasters’ skipper Adrian Luna was at the centre of both the strikes, taking the corner for the first one and netting the other to help his side secure three points after a hard-fought first half saw both the teams head into the tunnel without troubling the scorers.
The first-half was grueling with both teams struggling to get going in the pouring rain. There was little to separate the two sides in terms of possession, shots taken, and even in attacking parameters like crosses attempted.
Both sides came close to breaking the deadlock as the half progressed though, with Blasters’ Daisuke Sakai’s right-footed shot saved by Gurpreet Singh Sandhu in the 33rd minute. Bengaluru looked to hit back with the duo of Suresh Singh Wangjam and Sivasakhti Narayanan seamlessly interlinking near the Kerala box a few minutes later. Wangjam shot hard but it was saved comfortably by Sachin Suresh.
Blasters emerged as a reinvigorated unit in the second half. Luna sent in a curling corner that Bengaluru’s Dutch midfielder Keziah Veendorp nodded inside the net to hand the home team the crucial lead in the contest in the 52nd minute.
Blues’ head coach Simon Grayson reacted to the move by bringing Veendorp off for Spaniard Javi Hernandez, in a bid to reinforce the team’s frontline as they searched for the equaliser. However, any momentum building was nipped after a big mistake by Gurpreet in the 69th minute. A heavy touch from the keeper allowed Luna to take the ball and simply walk the ball into an empty net.
Grayson substituted in youngsters Harsh Patre and Monirul Molla to inject urgency in their attack, and it was another sub, Curtis Main, who provided the finishing touch to a move started by the direct dribbling of Molla. But Kerala held on to take home all three points in the opener.
Bengaluru FC will travel to Kolkata to take on the Mohun Bagan Super Giant on September 27 in their next fixture whereas Kerala Blasters will square off against Jamshedpur FC in Kochi on October 1 in their forthcoming match.