ISL 2018-19: Late goals remain a concern for Kerala Blasters

ISL media
Credit must be given to the Blues for acting on their first-half callousness and clinching a point....

Kerala Blasters' disastrous Indian Super League (ISL) looked to have found some relief on Wednesday when they led 2-0 at half-time against league leaders Bengaluru FC at the Kanteerava stadium.

This was against a side against whom Kerala had lost all three previous meetings and the fans had a burgeoning rivalry with.

More than that, the Men in Yellow seemed finally on course for a win after a long gap of 13 games. However, it was not so as a shambolic second-half performance saw Bengaluru claw back the deficit and nick a point.

Yet again, it was a late goal that laid Blasters low as has been the case on numerous occasions this season. Cue the 2-1 defeat to NorthEast United, 1-1 draw against Mumbai City FC and the 1-1 draw against Delhi Dynamos among others.

They started the match with alacrity, with Keziron Kizito and Sahal Abdul Samad performing admirably in midfield. In fact, the duo outshone the acclaimed Bengaluru midfield of Dimas Delgado and Erik Paartalu in the first half. Sahal, especially, was terrific with his workrate and passing intelligence.

A handball from Kean Lewis helped the Blasters get the go-ahead goal, thanks to a Slavisa Stojanovic penalty. But it was no less than they deserved. It was Sahal who kick-started the move for the second goal, with Seiminlen Doungel latching on to his throughball before laying it off for Courage Pekuson. The Ghanaian belted a first-time shot right into the top-corner, leaving Gurpreet Singh Sandhu and the rest of the Bengaluru defence astounded.

By half-time, Bengaluru had created very little in attack and were found wanting at the back. However, to his credit, Carles Cuadrat identified his issues and took off youngster Edmund Lalrindika and Kean Lewis, who had poor outings, for Xisco Hernandez and Rahul Bheke.

Bengaluru vs Kerala Blasters

The changes to an extent helped spark a reaction from the Blues who suddenly started to stretch the Kerala defence. The assuredness in possession that Kerala had in the first half was nowhere to be seen and the Men in Yellow buckled under pressure.

Bengaluru's use of the wings was intelligent and the slew of crosses that came in had the Kerala defence in all sorts of trouble. Dheeraj Singh had some nervy moments while dealing with several balls but did produce a couple of good saves.

But it were two crosses to the far post from the right that produced the goals for Bengaluru. Erik Paartalu picked out Sunil Chhetri at the far post for the first goal and the it was left to Udanta to turn it in once Chhetri had outjumped Mohammed Rakip to head it across the box.

Bengaluru vs Kerala Blasters

For the equaliser, Chhetri would find the back of the net from another cross from the right with Rakip no match for his aerial prowess. Nelo Vingada should have had somebody else cover Chhetri, especially when Rakip was having a tough time.

Ultimately, Vingada's team might have realised the fact that starting a match well is not enough. A side needs the ability to withstand pressure at times in order to consistently churn out results. It is an area that the Blasters have been found woefully lacking this season.

As for Bengaluru, credit for their brilliant reaction to going behind but Cuadrat would not want another first-half showing akin to Wednesday when they take to the field in the play-offs.