Miku’s brace and Chhetri’s penalty give Bengaluru bragging rights
Bengaluru FC inflicted a first home defeat of Hero Indian Super League (ISL) 2017-18 on Kerala Blasters FC, when the league debutants beat them 3 – 1 at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Kochi on Sunday. Miku’s brace and Sunil Chhetri’s spot-kick gave the visitors a three-goal lead before Courage Pekuson grabbed a last-gasp consolation for the hosts.
Both teams took turns initiating attacks to begin with, and the first chance of reckoning fell to the Blues when Udanta Singh won a free-kick at the edge of the box with four minutes on the clock. Edu Garcia swung the ball into the box, but Miku directed his header straight at Kerala custodian Subhasish Roy, who held on to it with ease.
Ten minutes later, Roy again gathered the ball when Miku tried his luck from outside the box. The Blasters had their first sniff of goal when Wes Brown played a lovely diagonal ball which found Mark Sifneos unmarked. He tried a first-time volley, but ended up touching the ball with his hand as the chance went begging.
The next opportunity fell to Chhetri in the 36th minute, when he went on a brilliant solo run from midfield and created enough space to take a crack at goal. The shot was powerful, but straight at Roy, who palmed it away. From the resulting corner, a back-tracking Erik Paartalu managed to get his head to the ball, but failed to generate enough power to trouble Roy.
Roy thwarted Edu Garcia four minutes later when the latter’s shot from a lay-off was directed straight at him. A couple minutes later, Garcia stepped up to take a free-kick which he hit hard, but this time Roy made a sprawling save. That was the last bit of action from the half as the teams went into the break locked at 0 – 0.
Bengaluru had a good chance just seven minutes after the restart when Harmanjot Khabra’s cross from the right found Chhetri. His header brought out a brilliant save from Roy who showed great reflexes.
Just on the hour mark, the Blues finally got a much-deserved breakthrough. Udanta went on one of his marauding runs on the left flank and crossed into the box. Defender Sandesh Jhingan, however, handled the ball before it came to the path of Garcia, and while he hit his shot straight at Roy again, the referee called for a penalty. Chhetri stepped up and calmly slotted the ball home to give his side the lead.
With 20 minutes remaining, the home team got a free-kick near the box. Iain Hume tried to curl the ball in, but it missed the target by inches much to the relief of goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu who was struggling to reach it.
The Blues had a glorious opportunity to double their advantage three minutes from time. Miku released substitute Alwyn George with a deft pass, but the latter’s first touch of the game went agonizingly wide off the target.
They did, however, get a second three minutes into injury time when Miku got around Lalruatthara and despite pressure from the latter, managed to slot the ball past Kerala’s substitute goalkeeper Paul Rachubka. The very next minute they got a third after Subhasish Bose nutmegged Jhingan and laid it off for Miku who fired into an unguarded goal.
Astonishingly, the home team still found enough time to grab a consolation with virtually the last move of the game, after Pekuson managed to bulldoze himself past the Bengaluru defence and scored past Sandhu. The match, however, ended 3 – 1 in favour of the Blues who climbed to the third spot in the points table, and remain just one point adrift of table-toppers Chennaiyin FC.
Club Award: Bengaluru FC
Swift Moment of the Match: Subhasish Roy
DHL Winning Pass of the Match: Edu Garcia
Amul Fittest Player: Miku
Emerging Player: Lalruatthara
Hero of the Match: Sunil Chhetri