Ashique Kuruniyan found the back of both nets as Bengaluru FC played out a 1-1 draw against Kerala Blasters at the GMC Athletic Stadium, in Bambolim, on Sunday. The winger, who scored the Blues’ opener in the 84th minute of the game with a rasping effort from distance, miscued a clearance at the other end just four minutes later as the points were shared.
Marco Pezzaiuoli handed Iranian playmaker Iman Basafa his first start of the season, while Pratik Chaudhari started at the centre of the Blues’ defence, ahead of an injured Musavu-King. Striker Cleiton Silva too was among the first names on the team sheet, with fellow striker Prince Ibara dropping to the bench.
The Blues started on the offense, with efforts from Ashique Kuruniyan and Udanta Singh going wide of Albino Gomes’ frame. Bengaluru’s best chance of the first half fell to skipper Sunil Chhetri, whose late entry into the area to meet a cross from Udanta was thwarted by former Bengaluru man Harmanjot Khabra. At the other end, Sahal Abdul Samad wriggled free of Naorem Roshan Singh and sent a cross into the area for Suresh Wangjam to clear away.
Pezzaiuoli made no changes at the break, and the Blues created the better chances in the opening exchanges of the second period when Silva’s effort landed on the roof of the net. Only moments later, the Brazilian fed Udanta in the box but the winger lost his footing before he could get a shot away.
The Blues rang in two changes just past the hour mark as Chhetri and Basafa were withdrawn to be replaced by Ibara and Danish Farooq. Unable to seize control of the ball in the final third, Pezzaiuoli sent on young striker Sivasakthi Narayanan, who made his Indian Super League debut, replacing Udanta.
In what was a frantic final ten minutes, the Blues went on to take the lead and concede in the space of five minutes. Ashique Kuruniyan, whose forays into the attacking half had caused problems throughout the game, picked a pass from Roshan Singh and turned away from Khabra. His effort from over 25 yards had too much on it, causing Gomes to fumble into his own net and give Bengaluru the advantage.
However, only moments later, the Blasters drew level when substitute Nishu Kumar’s lob found Marko Leskovic, who squared into a dangerous area, and Kuruniyan’s attempted clearance was hacked into his own net. Bengaluru would push forward in search of a second goal, but it wasn’t to be as the Blasters held on for the point.
Bengaluru next face current champions Mumbai City FC at the same venue, on December 4, at 7.30 pm.