Kerala Blasters rode their luck to edge past a battling Indian Navy 1-0 in their Group C game at the Durand Cup 2021. Adrian Luna converted a penalty in the second half at the Vivekanand Yuba Bharati Krirangan in Kolkata on Saturday.
Bringing their full-strength squad, Kerala Blasters started as overwhelming favorites despite Indian Navy’s win over Delhi FC three days ago. By the end of the game, they were fortunate to escape with all three points.
The first chance of the game fell to Indian Navy winger Britto PM in the 8th minute. He capitalized on a slip by Sandeep Singh, cut in from the left and curled a shot just wide of the post.
Rahul KP got the Kerala Blasters’ first shot on target four minutes later as his effort was pushed behind by Indian Navy goalkeeper Bhaskar Roy. The youngster had another chance soon after but his touch from Prasanth’s cross let him down.
Indian Navy’s hero of the last game, Dalraj Singh, nearly turned zero this time as his weak clearance fell to Jeakson Singh outside the box. Jackson fed Luna, who turned one defender before shooting straight at Bhaskar.
At the other end, forward Sreyas VG pounced on a loose back-pass by Luna and stung the palms of Albino Gomes. From the resulting corner, left-back Pradeesh had a free header but it went over the bar.
Around the half-hour mark, Seityasen Singh crossed from the left on to Luna’s head but the effort hit the post.
Durand Cup 2021: Kerala Blasters make second half count
The Uruguayan Luna, given a license to roam, was pulling all the strings. Ten minutes into the second half, his shot cannoned into Rahul's path, who only succeeded in handling the ball.
The Indian Navy had a huge chance to take the lead in the 63rd minute via a counter-attack. Britto drove forward and squared it to Sreyas, whose shot was saved by Albino. The rebound fell to Britto, who had an empty net to aim at but somehow skied his effort.
They paid for that miss as five minutes later, substitute Sreekuttan was pulled down by Dalraj as he went through on goal. Luna dispatched the resulting penalty into the top corner to give Kerala Blasters the lead.
As the Indian Navy pressed for an equalizer, the closest they came thereafter was through substitute Bibake Thapa. In the 79th minute, Pradeesh drove forward from the left and his cross was met by Thapa whose header hit the post.
Kerala Blasters would have learned a valuable lesson from this encounter and they know they need to improve. Their next game is an all-ISL clash against Bengaluru FC and victory there would send them through to the quarterfinals.