An extra-time strike from Sunil Chhetri proved the difference as Bengaluru FC posted a 1-0 win against Kerala Blasters in an Indian Super League knockout clash at the Kanteerava Stadium, in Bengaluru, on Friday. Having scored the opener seven minutes into extra-time, Bengaluru saw the remainder of the game out as the visiting side chose to forfeit, walking down the tunnel with close to 20 minutes left to play.
Blues’ boss Simon Grayson made two changes to the starting eleven, with Javi Hernandez and Sandesh Jhingan returning to the lineup, having been benched for the game against FC Goa last week. Alan Costa also returned to the squad, starting on the bench after missing the last two games owing to personal reasons.
Bengaluru were moving the ball around swiftly, refusing to let the yellow shirts breathe. If Grayson’s men lost possession, they were quick to regain it. It was from one such retrieval that the Blues had a good chance within a quarter of an hour. Prabir Das made a marauding run down the right and chipped his cut-back for Roy Krishna, who managed to head but wide.
Krishna had another chance to put Bengaluru into the lead when he found himself at the end of a corner by Naorem Roshan Singh, only to head the ball over the crossbar from point-blank range.
The Blasters came close themselves to open the scoring in the 32nd minute when a corner from Adrian Luna was headed on by Danish Farooq, into the path of Victor Mongil who was arriving in the far corner, but the Spaniard couldn’t turn the ball goalward and had Rohit Kumar in his way who did enough to get a final touch of Mongil for a Bengaluru goal kick.
Both teams continued to push and pull, but had to contend with a goalless half.. Ivan Vukomanovic’s men dominated the possession numbers, but Bengaluru had created the better chances heading into the break.
Into the second period, Grayson’s men were the first to make their intent to take the lead known, just before the hour mark. Suresh Wangjam received the ball just outside the box from Roy Krishna, but the Bengaluru midfielder’s effort on goal was parried away by Kerala ’keeper Prabsukhan Gill.
An already feisty battle got a little more heated with players going at each other during and after duels. Rohit Kumar got himself into a skirmish with Gill and Kerala skipper Jessel Carneiro following an attempt to steal the ball off the duo.
Both teams looked to turn the tide in their favour by going to their benches. Vukomanovic was the first, bringing on midfielder Sahal Abdul Samad to replace Danish Farooq in the 71st minute. The Blues followed suit by bringing on skipper Sunil Chhetri in place of Sivasakthi.
The Blasters Head Coach made a second change in the 76th minute with skipper Jessel Carneiro being taken off for Ayush Adhikari, while Grayson made his second change into the final 10 minutes of regulation time. Blues’ defender Aleksandar Jovanovic suffered a strain while clearing a cross by Ayush, and had to be taken off, with Alan Costa being brought on in his stead.
Kerala had chances few and far between but saw themselves on the counter in the 87th minute, with Rahul KP putting in a cross from the right, Luna who got on the end of the cross placed his diving header wide off Gurpreet Singh Sandhu’s goal.
Ultimately, 90 minutes were also not enough to separate the two units as the game moved to extra time. The Blues eventually took the lead from a free-kick taken quickly by Chhetri in the 96th minute, but the Blasters took to arms contesting that referee Crystal John signaled for the Blues to take the free-kick without them being ready to defend.
The situation spiraled into chaos with Vukomanovic staging a walkout with his players and staff. Bengaluru waited for the Blasters to return, but ultimately, the away side refused to continue the game which resulted in a forfeit and the Blues eventually bagged the win in what was a high-octane encounter.
The Blues, courtesy of the win, qualified to the semifinal, where they will face Mumbai City FC in the first leg in Mumbai on Tuesday, 7 March 2023.
Bengaluru FC Media Release