ISL 2019: Bengaluru FC 1-0 Kerala Blasters - Talking Points

Sunil Chhetri's solitary goal was enough for Bengaluru FC to beat Kerala Blasters 1-0 on Friday and maintain its unbeaten run this season.

Sunil Chhetri heads in Bengaluru FC's solitary goal of the match against Kerala Blasters.   -  ISL Media

Bengaluru FC extended its unbeaten run against Kerala Blasters to five matches as Sunil Chhetri’s 55th minute header sent the defending champion to second spot in the Indian Super League (ISL) table.

Kerala was close to scoring on multiple occasions but missed the finishing touch as it succumbed to a second defeat in five matches this season.

Sportstar looks at what stood out in the game at Bengaluru’s Sree Kanteerava Stadium on Saturday.

REPORT| Chhetri header helps Bengaluru FC thump Kerala Blasters

Chhetri not enthralling but effective

Sunil Chhetri has not been at his mercurial best in the past few matches for India, and on Saturday he barely touched the ball in the opening half of the match. In the final minutes of the first half, the Bengaluru skipper found himself at the near post with an opportunity to cut the ball back to Rafael Augusto, who had the better chance of finishing. Instead, the striker went for the glory from a difficult angle and only managed to find the side-netting.

However, Chhetri made up for his mistake in the second half when he flung himself into the air to meet a Dimas Delgado corner kick and finished off with a thumping header. It was a performance that did not match up to Chhetri’s usual high standards, but the Bengaluru skipper did just enough to ensure his side remained undefeated in the league this season.

 

Blasters brave but need better finishing

The 13-day international break has done Kerala Blasters a world of good as it gave head coach Eelco Schattorie enough time to tweak his plans to suit his team, which is missing its star players. Blasters started off with an unusual 4-4-2 with Raphaël Messi Bouli and Bartholomew Ogbeche as the strike pair upfront. The combination caused multiple problems with their link-up in the final third while K. P. Rahul and K. Prasanth’s crosses created panic in the Bengaluru box.

The Bengaluru defence was ordinary, giving away the ball in dangerous areas with Gurpreet Singh Sandhu lucky enough to get away with a stray pass in front of the goal. However, Kerala was never able to take advantage of these situations, with Messi Bouli often guilty of wasting chances from close range. It was a courageous display from the visitor, but it needs to work more on its finishing.

Rafi’s injury adds to Kerala’s injury pile

In search of an equaliser, Schattorie brought on Mohammed Rafi in the 77th minute. But the forward landed awkwardly on his back when he cleared a Bengaluru corner with an acrobatic kick. Kerala had to continue the final 10 minutes of the match with 10 men as it had used its three substitutions by that time.

Kerala is already without centre-back Gianni Zuiverloon and midfielder Mario Arques while centre-back Jairo Rodrigues’ season is all but over after suffering a muscle injury. Schattorie’s problems are now more complicated as he has to look for alternate plans to work with his squad.