Bengaluru FC opened their Durand Cup campaign by beating an ill-disciplined Kerala Blasters side 2-0 in a Group C clash. Kerala Blasters received three red cards in the space of 20 second-half minutes at the Vivekananda Yuba Bharat Krirangan in Kolkata on Wednesday.
A superb free-kick from Namgyal Bhutia put the young Bengaluru FC side ahead just before half-time. Kerala Blasters defender RV Hormipam received his marching orders for a second bookable offense in the 64th minute.
Substitute Leon Augustine doubled the Blues’ lead a few minutes later before the Blasters were reduced to eight players. Sandeep Singh was sent off after lashing out and bad-mouthing the referee’s assistant in the 83rd minute. Denechandram Meitei followed him down the tunnel three minutes later after he was shown a second yellow card.
The first half was a complete contrast to the drama which unfolded in the second. The opening chance of the game fell to Bengaluru FC Siva Sakthi in the 10th minute but his tame effort did not trouble Kerala Blasters goalkeeper Albino Gomes.
Forward Sreekuttan got Kerala Blasters’ first shot on target just after the half-hour mark. A corner was half-cleared by the Bengaluru FC defense and the ball fell to Sreekuttan who shot straight at goalkeeper Lara Sharma.
A few minutes later, Adrian Luna came close for Kerala Blasters as he whipped a free-kick towards the far corner, which Sharma tipped it behind for a corner.
Sreekuttan then had the best chance of the match as he was sent through with a lobbed ball from right-back Sandeep Singh. Luna waited for a pass to tap in but Sreekuttan went for glory and his effort was saved.
The Blaster paid dearly for that miss as BFC winger Bhutia curled in a beautiful free-kick from the edge of the box on the stroke of half-time to make it 1-0.
Kerala Blasters started the second half well as Sanjeev Stalin had his effort from Luna’s cut-back saved. However, just after the hour-mark, Hormipam, already on a yellow card, committed another foul and was given a red card.
In the 71st minute, substitute Leon Augustine compounded Kerala Blasters’ woes after doubling his side’s lead. Fellow substitute Harmanpreet Singh ran down the right and sent in a beautiful cross which Augustine met.
Kerala Blasters were unable to keep their emotions in check and suffered a meltdown after the 80th minute. Sandeep was furious at not being given a free kick for what he felt was a tug of the shirt. He swung out and also said something to the referee’s assistant. The referee was called over and Sandeep was sent off.
A couple of minutes later, there was yet another ejection for the Men in Yellow. Left-back Denechandram Meitei got a second yellow card for a foul to add salt to the Kerala Blasters’ wounds.
The match served as a grim reminder for the Kerala Blasters that there is a lot of work to be done before the season begins. They lacked creativity and ideas when it came to progressive passing from the back. Although their full foreign contingent is yet to play, the early signs are worrying.