Bengaluru FC pulled their way back from a two-goal disadvantage as they drew 2-2 against Kerala Blasters FC, in a heated encounter at the Kanteerava Stadium, in Bengaluru, on Wednesday. Goals from Slavisa Stojanovic and Courage Pekuson had given the visitors the advantage at the break before Sunil Chhetri and Udanta Singh played provider to each other for goals that would give Bengaluru a point.
There were a few surprises with the way Cuadrat chose to start the game. Winger Kean Lewis was drafted at the right-back position in a four-man defence that saw Nishu Kumar start after an injury lay-off that saw him limp out in the game against ATK at home in December. In attack, nineteen-year-old Edmund Lalrindika was handed his first start and had Sunil Chhetri and Udanta Singh on either flank while Venezuelan striker Miku made his way to the bench after an eight-game layoff.
Lewis, however, had an unfortunate start when a Len Doungel cross from the right caught the Bengaluru player’s arm in the box after his attempt to clear miscued and rose. Stojanovic stepped up and sent Gurpreet Singh Sandhu the wrong way to make it 1-0 in the 16th minute.
With the Kerala attack pushing harder after the opener, Lewis switched places with Harmanjot Khabra in midfield as Bengaluru looked to get a foot back into the game. But the Blues struggled to string together anything that looked like getting them back on level terms. Instead, the visitors doubled their lead when Pekuson curled one into the top corner in the 40th minute to further Kerala’s grip on things.
Desperate to shake things up, Cuadrat made two changes at the start, bringing on Xisco Hernandez and Rahul Bheke for Lalrindika and Lewis. The switch almost put Bengaluru back in the game when Xisco flung himself to connect with a cross from Udanta in the 47th minute, only to see it fly wide off his head. Chhetri then had an uncharacteristic miss four minutes later, when he misdirected a header of his own, from an inch-perfect Bheke cross.
The captain would then falter to finish what was easily the move of the game that started with a Gurpreet Singh Sandhu pass. Playing out from the back, Bheke and Udanta exchanged passes before the winger sent Dimas through down the middle. The Spaniard feinted before laying it off for Chhetri, but the skipper’s shot was straight at Dheeraj, who would parry away without fuss. Bengaluru were a completely different side in the second half and had Kerala on the ropes.
Cuadrat then made his final gamble, bringing on Miku for Albert Serran as Blues sensed a comeback. The relentless pressure finally came good when Udanta headed home to make it 2-1 in the 69th minute. Picked by a long diagonal, Chhetri sent the ball back into the danger area with a header that the winger nodded home on the dive from a difficult position.
Cuadrat’s men would keep pushing forward, and it would pay dividends once again. Udanta played provider this time, as Khabra’s backheel to keep the ball in play was pounced on by the winger, and his deft chip into the box was headed past an outstretched Dheeraj in the Blasters goal by Chhetri.
Sensing a third, Bengaluru pushed on with Dimas and Xisco dropping deep to collect the ball from defence and convert it into attacks, but with reinforcements at the back in the form of substitutes Cyril Kali and Abdul Hakku, the Blasters held fort to avoid defeat.
The Blues next travel to face Chennaiyin FC on Saturday, 9th February.