Kerala Blasters held their nerve at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium to emerge 2-1 winners against Bengaluru FC. The defeat meant that the Blues have consigned themselves to either a third-placed or fourth-placed finish come the end of the league stages.
The game began scrappily, although the hosts enjoyed more possession. However, against the run of play, the away side went ahead when Deshorn Brown coolly finished past Bilal Khan.
In the dying moments of the first half though, Bartholomew Ogbeche capitalized on some sluggish goalkeeping to restore parity.
Post the restart, the hosts looked the likelier outfit to score and they did so in the 72nd minute when their skipper rose to the occasion and calmly caressed his penalty into the back of the net.
Here is a look at the talking points from the match.
#5 Bengaluru and Kerala serve up a tactically intriguing first half
Bengaluru lined up in a 4-2-3-1 formation at the outset and several expected them to continue playing a similar system. However, as the minutes ticked by, it became increasingly clear that the defending champions had tweaked things slightly to counter the threat of Messi Bouli and Ogbeche.
Whenever the visitors were devoid of possession, Erik Paartalu swiftly dropped into defence and acted as a man marker for Messi. Consequently, that forced the Blasters to change their modus operandi as they looked for alternative attacking options.
Moreover, the shunting of Paartalu into the rear-guard allowed Dimas Delgado and Suresh Wangjam more space in midfield. For the opening quarter of the game, the ploy seemed to have worked a charm as Bengaluru always found themselves boasting a spare man on the flanks.
However, Eelco Schattorie quickly amended his own system to cancel out the visitors’ tactics and ensured that the hosts established more of a foothold in the encounter.
Post Cido’s injury, the Dutchman shook things up and called upon Gianni Zuiverloon, with the latter slotting into a back three alongside Raju Gaikwad and Vlatko Drobarov.
In the process, the hosts were able to push their full-backs forward and attack more down the flanks with the likes of Halicharan Narzary and Sahal Abdul Samad accorded the freedom to venture in-field.
Thus, over the course of the opening 45 minutes, both managers had portrayed their tactical astuteness to match the other stride for stride. And, rather fittingly, the half ended deadlocked.