Bengaluru pull back two-goal deficit to deny Kerala memorable win

A brilliant second-half charge by Bengaluru FC saw them come from two goals behind to hold Kerala Blasters FC to a 2-2 draw at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium on Wednesday. The match was a tale of two halves, with Kerala scoring two in the first-half and Bengaluru engineering a spectacular comeback in the second.

The result extended Kerala’s winless run to 14 matches, with their last victory coming on the opening day of Hero Indian Super League (Hero ISL) 2018-19.

There was a pleasant surprise for Bengaluru fans in the team sheet on the night, with Miku coming back into the matchday squad after a lengthy injury layoff. The Venezuelan hitman's last match for Bengaluru was incidentally in the reverse fixture against Kerala back on November 5. The star striker started Wednesday's match from the bench.

The match went off to a high-octane start and the away team could have taken the lead within the first three minutes. Seiminlen Doungel carried the ball forward with conviction down the right wing and floated in a cross to find Slavisa Stojanovic unmarked at the far post. The Serbian forward, however, sliced his volley as the ball flew harmlessly wide.

Bengaluru, uncharacteristically, were very muted in the first 15 minutes and to make things worse, even went a goal behind. Another forward foray by Kerala down the right saw Mohamad Rakip bomb down the touchline and deliver a dangerous cross inside the box. Kean Lewis fluffed his attempted clearance at the edge of the 6-yard box and the ball ended up hitting his arm, prompting the referee to point to the spot. Stojanovic stepped up to take the penalty kick and calmly dispatched it past Gurpreet Singh Sandhu to hand the away team a shock lead.

With Bengaluru looking for a quick response, the match opened up with both sides throwing caution to the wind in search of the all-important second goal. On the 40th minute, Kerala struck again with a moment of brilliance from Pekuson. The man from Ghana picked up the ball outside the box and buried a rocket of a shot into the top corner, giving Gurpreet no chance.

Minutes later, things could have gotten even worse for the home team after the ball broke kindly for Matej Poplatnik after a quick counter-attack. Gurpreet made himself big to deflect the Slovenian’s shot wide of the goal and prevented any further damage.

To the home crowd's dismay, it was the away team leading by two goals going into the half-time.

Bengaluru head coach Carles Cuadrat made two changes at half-time, bringing on Xisco Hernandez and Rahul Bheke in place of Edmund Lalrindika and Kean Lewis. The reshuffle almost paid dividends immediately when Udanta found an onrushing Xisco inside the box. The midfielder's snap header was just wide, much to the relief of Dheeraj Singh in the Kerala goal.

Sunil Chhetri, too, got a few big opportunities to get his name on the score sheet. Bengaluru were on a siege in an attempt to claw their way back into the match and it took some resolute defending by Kerala and a few good saves by Dheeraj to keep them at bay.

On the hour mark, Cuadrat brought on Miku in place of Albert Serran as his final throw of the dice. The Venezuelan's introduction almost immediately added some extra edge to Bengaluru's offence, with Kerala holding on by the skin of their teeth.

The gritty resistance, however, was brought to an end on the 69th minute. Erik Paartalu found Chhetri with a pin-point pass inside the Kerala box and the Bengaluru captain headed the ball back into the danger zone. Udanta Singh made a clever run at the far post and dove in bravely to pull a goal back for Bengaluru.

The home team kept their foot on the gas and continued to put pressure on the Kerala backline in search of the equaliser. As Bengaluru continued pushing men forward, Kerala almost caught Bengaluru out with a sucker punch on the 80th minute. Sahal Abdul Samad, who had been brilliant from Kerala throughout the match, got into the Bengaluru box after playing a quick one-two with Poplatnik. The youngster kept his wits about him to cut the ball back for Stojanovic, who killed the pass with a brilliant touch and took on the shot. The attempt had Gurpreet beat, but came out after hitting the woodwork.

Bengaluru proceeded to make the most of the let off just five minutes later and brought things level. Chhetri outleapt Rakip to meet Udanta’s cross and made it 2-2 with five minutes of regulation time remaining.

Neither side, however, could find the winner as the two teams shared the spoils after the final whistle.

HERO OF THE MATCH - Udanta Singh

Udanta Singh was sensational for Bengaluru and played a big part in their memorable comeback. The youngster scored the first goal for the Blues before setting up Chhetri for the all-important equaliser. He is the Hero of the Match.

CLUB AWARDS

Club Award – Bengaluru FC and Kerala Blasters FC

Swift Limitless Player of the Match – Keziron Kizito

DHL Winning Pass of the Match – Udanta Singh

ISL Emerging Player of the Match – Dheeraj Singh

Hero of the Match – Udanta Singh

WHAT’S NEXT?

Bengaluru will be on the road next to play against Chennaiyin FC on February 9, while Kerala will host the same opponents of February 15.

Watch the match highlights here

Visit our videos and photos section for exclusive videos and images from the match. 

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