Kerala Blasters continued their preparations for the upcoming Indian Super League season with a hard-fought 2-0 win over UAE first division side Al Jazirah Al Hamra in the Emirates.
After being hammered 0-6 by Al Wasl in their pre-season opener, the Blasters won the next two. Prior to meeting Al Hamra, Ivan Vukomanovic's side had edged Sharjah FC 2-1.
Striker Bidyashagar scored in the 36th minute and Pritam Kotal turned in a corner a few minutes before full time.
The local side had been the most aggressive from the start and hit the post twice, the second time with goalkeeper Sachin Suresh making a smart reflex save before the effort flicked the bar.
At the other end, Kotal saw his free header miss the far post. But Kerala kept growing into the game with smart counter attacks.
Ten minutes before the break, Blasters' fresh recruit Daisuke Sakai dashed inside from the left flank. His move followed by a few sideways passes exchanged between Jeakson Singh and Freddy Lallawmawma ended up with a hopeful cross into the box, where as many as three Blasters' attackers had arrived. Freddy, who had continued his run forward, missed his header, but Bidyashagar was at the right place to turn the ball into an inviting net.
Better after the break
Kerala Blasters played with more confidence in the second half. Out of possession, they sat deep to spring on counter, but committed more men forward when in possession.
The hosts were wasteful on numerous occasions, but so were their hosts.
Blasters' Ghanaian striker Kwame Peprah missed at least a pair of chances, one with either foot. He drove wide with a powerful left on 66 minutes having outmuscled his marker.
Despite not scoring, in Peprah, the Blasters seem to have found a formidable force in the box. With his physical game he resembles a certain Bart Ogbeche, but can he match the Nigerian's goalscoring prowess?
The introduction of Rahul KP and Danish Farooq after the hour added more flair to the Blasters' game. Rahul even forced a smart save from Al Hamra goalkeeper.
In the final minutes, Kotal arrived unmarked and turned in a corner to give the visitors a 2-0 lead. In added time, Sachin denied a Al Hamra attacker a one-on-one to keep a clean sheet.