Kochi: Bengaluru FC and Kerala Blasters exchanged gifts in the Indian Super League (ISL) Season-10 opener. Thanks to their generous guests, who packed a pair of presents as opposed to just one from the home side, Blasters won 2-1 at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Kochi Thursday evening. Keziah Veendorp scored an own goal to give Blasters a lead in the 52nd minute. Then Bengaluru custodian and skipper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu laid it on a platter for his counterpart Adrian Luna in the 69th.
Blasters returned a favour when Prabir Das left his defence wide open in the 90th minute to allow substitutes Monirul Molla and Curtis Main to accept a return gift.
It wasn't the best of football to kickstart a season. Some might say this was destiny after what happened in the previous meeting of the sides, in an ISL playoff tie, which ended with Blasters forfeiting with a walkout after a contentious free-kick goal.
But in reality, all three goals on the night were the outcome of poor defending. Both sides could be afforded the benefit of the doubt for it's just the first game of the season.
But some might disagree. Gurpreet, who also wears the armband for the national team when his clubmate Sunil Chhetri isn't playing, might want to take responsibility.
He had casually tipped over a Kwame Peprah shot to concede a corner that led to Blasters' opener, and was even more lazy in his handling of the ball that allowed an omnipresent Luna to tap in.
Bengaluru had let the game slip just as they were growing into it after failing to match the home side’s tempo in the early exchanges. Their set-up was partly to be blamed as the full-backs Roshan and Jessel Carneiro hardly found space with Blasters dominating the wide areas in a 3-5-2.
Roshan did occasionally get across the half line but found an overzealous Aimen rush onto him in an instant. Used as a right-back, the left-footed Roshan eventually got into the groove. He nearly gave Bengaluru a shock lead with a dipping cross that was tipped over the bar by an awkwardly positioned Sachin Suresh.
Jessel, who captained the Blasters last season, struggled to replicate his marauding runs on Bengaluru's left. He was preoccupied with the wily Japanese winger Daisuke Sakai, who got him booked for a necessary foul on the edge of the box.
Jeakson and Farooq hardly left the pivot and Bengaluru found going through the middle equally tough. This wasn't a setback though as Blasters couldn't find the cohesion they desired in the final third despite winning back possession as easily as they lost it.
Sivasakthi was tightly marked by Milos Drincic, and the big Montenegro centre-back got a loud cheer when he took the ball and the young Indian attacker along.