Football is a game of two halves. Underdog Kerala Blasters put on an inspired show and surprised many by taking a 2-0 lead in the first session before Bengaluru FC (BFC) rose from the dead and salvaged a thrilling 2-2 draw.
Table-topper BFC started as the clear favourite, but it was the visitor which came out all guns blazing. After a period of sustained aggression, a cross from Mohamad Rakip put BFC’s Kean Lewis in a tight spot inside his box. Lewis fluffed a wild clearance attempt, and the ball crashed into his outstretched hand.
The resulting penalty was converted by Slavisa Stojanovic. In the 40th minute, BFC was stunned by a terrific right-footed strike from Ghanian Courage Pekuson, which nestled into the top corner of the goal.
Matej Poplatnik could have sealed the fate of the encounter at the stroke of half-time, but his close-range effort was deflected expertly by BFC custodian, Gurpreet Singh.
BFC fights back
The horror first-half show jolted BFC out of a deep slumber. The home team finally ran into some attacking rhythm and managed to wrestle back possession. Chances were created almost immediately, with Xisco Hernandez and captain Sunil Chhetri in the thick of things.
Both Hernandez and Chhetri could not convert, but slowly but surely, BFC’s confidence was on the rise. The breakthrough came when Chhetri’s assist found Udanta Singh. Udanta contorted his body to generate power on his header from an awkward angle and defeated goalkeeper Dheeraj Singh all ends up.
Then it was the turn of Chhetri to bask in the spotlight. Five minutes before the final whistle, the roles changed, as this time, it was the skipper who scored off a pass from Udanta. Chhetri was thrilled to record his first goal in seven outings.
Both teams walked off the pitch happy and relieved. Kerala Blasters, struggling this season, can take heart from pushing BFC to the brink. BFC, on the other hand, did well to dig itself out of a hole.
The encounter did see some rough tackles and physical play, which led to a few scuffles on the pitch. The referee, Tejas Nagvenkar, was keen to keep the play going, which only encouraged the players to test the limits of his leniency.
BFC’s quest to book a playoff spot will have to wait, while Kerala (11 points) made no significant movement on the points table.
Bengaluru FC 2 (Udanta Singh 69, Sunil Chhetri 85) bt Kerala Blasters 2 (Slavisa Stojanovic 16, Courage Pekuson 40).
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