Kenkre FC beat Kerala United FC 2-1 on Matchday 2 of the I-League qualifiers at the Bengaluru Football Stadium. Meanwhile, ARA FC were held 1-1 by Corbett FC. Kenkre FC sit top of Group B with three points while ARA FC and Corbett FC have a point apiece. Kerala United are at the bottom of the group with no points on the board. Delhi FC are the only team in Group B yet to play a game in the I-League qualifiers.
The first half was a cagey affair with Kerala United slightly the better side. None of the teams managed to create clear openings to score. But Bino George's side dictated the terms of the game as both teams went into the half-time break goalless in the I-League qualifiers.
The game opened up right after the half-time break. Akhil P played it out wide for Salman Kalliyath on the left wing. He was left completely unmarked by the Kenkre FC defense.
Kalliyath's cross from the left found substitute Nimshad Roshan. His glancing header was slammed home by Bujair Valiyattu from close range as Kerala United made it 1-0 in the 48th minute.
The referee made a contentious call in the 67th minute as Gabriel Da Silva brought down substitute Dipu Mirdha on the edge of the box. This resulted in a penalty for Kenkre FC. The challenge was nasty but was made outside the box. Lester Fernandez stepped up and sent Kerala United goalkeeper Midhun V the wrong way to make it 1-1 in the 68th minute of the I-League qualifiers fixture.
Kenkre FC upped the ante after the equalizer and went into the lead in the 72nd minute. Pravitto Raju played it wide to Aravindraj Rajan on the right side. Rajan delivered in a swirling low cross to find Ranjeet Singh in the box who just had to tap home to make it 2-1.
The MDFA side kept things tight at the back for the rest of the game. They never allowed Kerala United to control the proceedings to register an essential comeback win in the I-League qualifiers.
ARA FC fail to break down Corbett's defensive resilience in the I-League qualifiers
Debutant Corbett FC stunned the ARA defense by taking an early 1-0 lead in the 15th minute of the second Group B game on the same day. Jacob Uzodinma made a darting run past Jenishsinh Rana on the left side of the pitch. He set up Himanshu Patil for the final finish in the ARA box. The cross was slightly behind Patil, who adjusted himself in the last minute for a clean finish into the ARA goal.
ARA kept knocking on Corbett's door for the equalizer but never managed to find the back of the net. The likes of Prabin Tigga, Dahir Bala Alhassan and Karthik Govind Swamy kept on creating scoring opportunities. But, Alen Deory and Dieye Hamidou kept missing scoring opportunities in the I-League qualifiers game.
Vivek Nagul's Uzbek substitute Vladislav Nuriev eventually managed to net the equalizer in the 75th minute after Shiva Kumar played it to Hamidou inside the box. The Senegalese forward went down after a challenge from Ashish Chhetri in the box, calling for a penalty in the I-League qualifiers fixture.
Corbett's defenders were rooted to their positions during the appeal for a penalty from Hamidou. Hamidou quickly readjusted himself to find Nuriev in front of goal. Nuriev found the back of the net with a first-time finish past a stranded Corbett goalkeeper Ahamed Asfar.
ARA kept going for goal for the rest of the second-half but could not find the lead. Corbett scraped through a 1-1 draw in their maiden fixture in the I-League qualifiers.
Brief Scores for I-League Qualifiers: Kerala United (Bujair Valiyattu) 1-2 Kenkre (Lester Fernandez, Ranjeet Singh), Corbett (Himanshu Patil) 1-1 ARA (Vladislav Nuriev)