Danish Farooq of Kerala Blasters FC and Namgyal Bhutia of Bengaluru FC and Aibanbha Kupar Dohling of Kerala Blasters FC in action during the Indian Super League (ISL) 2023, at Jawaharlal Nehru International Stadium, in Kochi. Pic/PTI
It was a season-opener to forget for the former champions Bengaluru FC who suffered a 1-2 defeat to Kerala Blasters FC in the Indian Super League, here on Thursday. Two defensive errors from Bengaluru (Veendorp OG 52', Luna 70') is what consigned Simon Grayson's men to defeat. New signing Curtis Main, who was a second half substitute, scored a late goal (90'), but the Blues couldn't stage the comeback they needed. The Blasters kicked off proceedings with Bengaluru fielding as many as four debutants in their eleven. Slavko Damjanovic, Jessel Carneiro, Keziah Veendorp and Ryan Williams got their first competitive minutes in a BFC shirt. Gurpreet Singh Sandhu led Bengaluru out in the absence of Sunil Chhetri, who is away on national duty to the Asian Games.
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The Blues' closest chance came in the 35th minute, when Naorem Roshan Singh's long-distance effort caught Sachin Suresh off guard. But the Kerala goalkeeper managed to parry it away for a corner, as both teams walked down the tunnel at half time with no goals to show for. The start of the second half saw the momentum shift back Kerala's way. Peprah came close to scoring in the 52nd minute but Gurpreet managed to fist the ball out. It was from the resulting corner that the hosts found the lead, with the ball coming off Veendorp's head and past Gurpreet. Grayson turned to his bench in the 65th minute to try and change things as Curtis Main, Javi Hernandez and Parag Shrivas came on for Aleksandar Jovanovic, Keziah Veendorp and Namgyal Bhutia.
Just when Bengaluru looked to brush away the setback, another error in defence this time from Gurpreet gifted Kerala their second goal of the night. Picking up a pass from Damjanovic, the Bengaluru goalkeeper got a heavier touch to the ball than he would have liked. An onrushing Luna got to the ball in a flash, before rolling it into an empty net and making it 2-0. Monirul Molla and Harsh Patre came on for Sivasakthi Narayanan and Rohit Kumar in the 77th minute of the game as Bengaluru looked to find a way back. Main ate into Kerala's lead late into the game with a simple finish, sparking some hope of a revival. The fourth official added on seven minutes as Bengaluru continued their search for an equaliser, but it wasn't to be for the Blues who now travel to Kolkata where they play Mohun Bagan Super Giant on Wednesday.
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