Kerala Blasters edged their arch-rivals Bengaluru FC 2-1 at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Kochi in the Indian Super League (ISL) opener on Thursday.
The second half produced all the drama when Keziah Veendorp's own goal opened the gate for a couple goals more. Curtis Main scored minutes before injury time after Adrian Luna doubled the lead in the 70th minute.
Players made their way as the rain started to pour at Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Kochi. Although the hosts kicked off the first half on a high note, the visitors took charge of the game and stifled the momentum, gradually asserting their authority.
In the first half, there was only one highlight when the Kerala Blasters debutant Sachin misjudged a cross from Roshan, tipping the ball over the crossbar. Simon Grayson's side easily defended against the yellow team's attacks, denying any goalscoring opportunities in the opening half.
Daisuke Sakai was in the thick of things as he linked up with the attackers during the opening minute of the second half. Upon receiving the ball, Ghanaian Kwame Peprah opted to take a shot from outside the penalty box, but it sailed over the crossbar.
The Kerala Blasters striker was once again found outside the penalty box. Unlike the previous time, his powerful shot forced Gurpreet to acrobatically tip the ball over the goalpost.
However, the result was different this time when Keziah Veendorp unfortunately redirected the ball into his own net in the 53rd minute. The ball hit the Dutch midfielder's shoulder before finding the back of the net, as he was blindsided by a couple of players during a corner.
The ever-reliable Gurpreet Singh Sandhu made a schoolboy error in the 70th minute. After receiving a pass from Slavko Damjanovic, the custodian's poor touch allowed Adrian Luna to slot the ball into an empty net, doubling the lead in what turned out to be a catastrophic moment for the Blues.
Monirul Molla won the ball from Prabir Das and made a lung-bursting run to find the debutant Curtis Main inside the penalty box. Without making any mistakes, the English forward scored an easy tap-in to reduce the deficit by one.
Ivan Vukamanovic's men were able to hang on to the lead and secure three points at their fortress. On the other hand, Simon Grayson will be unhappy with the manner in which both goals were conceded, which eventually led to their first loss of the 2023-24 Indian Super League campaign.
On that note, let's look at how the men in yellow fared during their opening game of the season.
Kerala Blasters Player ratings
Sachin Suresh - 7/10
Sachin Suresh had a heart-in-the-mouth moment when he tipped the ball over the crossbar after misjudging Roshan's cross. Apart from that, he was assured.
Prabir Das - 7/10
Prabir Das was arguably the best player on the pitch. The Kolkata-born right-back controlled the game from the right defensive flank, excelling in both defensive and offensive aspects.
He had an unfortunate missed opportunity for an assist when Peprah failed to make a strong run into the six-yard box to tap the ball into an open net. When the game looked set, Prabir committed an uncharacteristic mistake by losing the ball high up the field.
Pritam Kotal - 8/10
Off to a solid start in his Kerala Blasters career, Pritam Kotal handled the young Sivasakthi with ease. His chemistry with Prabir Das contributed to a calm atmosphere in the backline, benefiting the Manjappada.
Milos Drincic - 7/10
Similar to Pritam, Milos wasn't troubled by the visitors. Not only was the Montenegrin international strong in the air, but his ground duels also helped his side thwart Bengaluru's attacks.
Aibanbha Dohling - 7.5/10
Javi Hernandez and Ryan Williams played down the right wing, but it didn't disrupt Aibanbha's top-notch defensive performance. He maintained his position effectively, preventing the opponents from getting behind him.
Jeakson Singh - 7/10
Jeakson Singh kept the midfield ticking by acting as the link between the defence and the forward line. He also won some crucial duels to protect the midfield from getting overrun.
Danish Farooq - 8/10
Facing his former club, Danish Farooq delivered a solid performance in the middle of the park. The Indian international effectively silenced the opponents by sitting deep alongside the backline.
Daisuke Sakai - 7.5/10
Daisuke Sakai showcased his trickery with his dribbling skills, managing to get past Jessel Carneiro on a couple of occasions during the first half, but it didn't lead to anything substantial.
The Japanese international struggled to establish a good connection with Kwame Peprah in order to penetrate Bengaluru FC's backline.
Mohammed Aimen - 6.5/10
Mohammed Aimen's contest against Roshan Rai was a spectacle, with both youngsters showcasing their potential in a high-voltage game. The 20-year-old shifted into the midfield to find open spaces when Bengaluru FC's right-back blocked his progress down the left wing.
Adrian Luna - 9/10
Although Adrian Luna was quiet throughout the first half, his spellbinding second-half display helped the hosts secure three points. The skipper's delivery troubled Veendorp for the opening goal, and his relentless pressure paid off when he capitalized on Gurpreet's poor touch to score his first goal of the season.
Kwame Peprah - 6/10
Kwame Peprah didn't trouble Bengaluru FC and was primarily holding up the ball, allowing others to get inside the penalty box. Apart from a couple of shots from outside the penalty box, he didn't pose much of a threat.
Freddy Lallawmawma - 6.5/10
He applied pressure through the right defensive flank and provided help for the midfield for the final 10 minutes of the game.
Vibin Mohanan - N/A
The young midfielder came on to see off the game without any hiccups.
Nihal Sudeesh - N/A
He replaced Farooq during injury time.