Edmund, Jha On Target As Bengaluru FC Share Spoils With Ten-Man Kerala Side In Group C
Kolkata: Bengaluru FC played out a 2-2 draw against Kerala Blasters, sending their neighbours from the south out of the Durand Cup at the Kishore Bharati Krirangan, in Kolkata, on Friday. Blasters, having taken the lead through Nigerian striker Emmanuel Justine in the first half, were pegged back by goals from Edmund Lalrindika and Ashish Jha on either side of the break before substitute Mohammed Aimen managed to rescue a point late on.
Bengaluru made two changes to their side as Amrit Gope replaced Sahil Poonia in goal, with Bibiano Fernandes handing a start Haobam Ricky Meetei at left-back. Kerala, meanwhile, made six changes to the side that lost 4-3 to Gokulam Kerala FC in their opening fixture with Uruguayan striker Adrian Luna leading the line alongside Justine.
The visitors had the first big chance of the game when Luna swung in a cross for Justine to nod on target, but Gope made himself big to deny from close range. Moments later, the Blasters would take the lead with a misplaced pass at the back allowing Vibin Mohanan to set up Justine, whose effort from the edge of the box could only be parried into the back of the net by Gope.
The Blasters continued to push forward and saw efforts from Danish Farooq and Luna thwarted, only for Bengaluru to strike back seven minutes from the break. Set free down the right, midfielder Bekey Oram drew three defenders his way before squaring a neat pass for Edmund Lalrindika. The striker took a touch to compose himself before having a hit from distance, which fizzed past Sachin in the Kerala goal.
Bengaluru had more chances as they grew into the game with Harsh Patre clipping the ball past Prabir Das down the flank and managing a shot from a tight angle, forcing a save from Sachin. Luna came close to giving the Blasters the lead once again in first-half extra-time but for quick reflexes once again from Gope to deny him.
Bengaluru took the lead seven minutes into the second period after a touch of brilliance from Bekey allowed the midfielder to turn Pritam Kotal and play Lalrindika through. The striker, in turn, rolled the ball forward for Ashish to attack. A miscued clearance from Muhammad Saheef allowed Jha to turn and finish past a hapless Sachin in goal.
Changes ensued for both sides as Bengaluru replaced Bekey Oram while Kerala Blasters sent on Ishan Pandita. With fifteen minutes left, Fernandes made three more changes as Lalpekhlua, Thokchom Singh and Monirul Molla replaced Lalrindika, Ashish and Ricky.
Kerala restored parity against the run of play when Aimen found himself in space in the box, and slotted his effort past Robin Yadav and a diving Gope in the 82nd minute. Kerala were reduced to ten men soon after when Hormipam was shown a second yellow card for a tug on Molla with the striker bearing down on goal.
Bengaluru pushed forward for the winner but it wasn’t to be as Fernandes’ side added another point to the board. The Blue Colts next face Gokulam Kerala FC, who have confirmed their qualification from Group C, in the final fixture of the group stages on Tuesday, August 22nd.