There was a dramatic Ukrainian touch to the Kerala Blasters’ party as it won its Indian Super League opener against East Bengal FC 3-1 at a packed Nehru Stadium here on Friday night.
Coming in as a 79th minute substitute, replacing forward Apostolos Giannou, Ukrainian Ivan Kaliuzhnyi was quick to make his mark and make a dream debut.
Minutes after arriving, the 24-year-old, who had come on loan from FK Oleksandriya two months ago, made a quick run from the centre, dodged past a couple of defenders and calmly sent the ball in. Everything was over in a jiffy and Ivan made it look all so easy.
Just as the Blasters’ coach Ivan Vukomanovic had predicted, the new faces look capable of producing a few wonderful surprises this season.
And the home fans had plenty to celebrate as Ivan came back to produce another beauty from outside the box seven minutes later, shortly after East Bengal’s midfielder Alexandre Lima had reduced the margin.
The Blasters’ midfielder Adrian Luna, who had been one of the standout performers for runners-up Blasters last year, scored the ISL ninth edition’s opening goal earlier, his attempt kissing the crossbar and going in in the 72nd minute.
The first half was rather quiet but nobody expected the second half to be so dramatic. The the EB goalkeeper Kamaljit Singh was kept very busy early in the second session by Luna and Apostolos. He stayed steady early but things changed in a big way later.