Kerala Blasters staged a resilient comeback to pick up a 2-1 win over Bengaluru FC in their 2020-21 Indian Super League (ISL) encounter on Wednesday. Lalthathanga Khawlhring (73') and Rahul KP (90+5') scored for the Tuskers after Cleiton Silva (24') broke the deadlock.
Kerala Blasters now have 13 points from 12 matches. Although Kibu Vicuna's side have the same number of points as Bengaluru FC and Jamshedpur FC, they occupy the ninth spot, owing to having an inferior goal difference.
Kerala Blasters found themselves on the backfoot after Cleiton Silva acrobatically connected with Rahul Bheke's throw-in to give Bengaluru FC the lead.
"The attitude and the commitment of the players are very important. In the last 3 games, we had a very good attitude. Today was very difficult because Bengaluru FC has very good players. We knew that they can score from throw-ins. But, the team came back. We are very happy with the final score because the three points were very important for us. Now, we have 13 points. In the last 3 matches, we got 7 points. Also, this behaviour of the players to never give up gave us the belief that we can keep going. We have to recover the players because we have another game in 3 days", said Kerala Blasters coach Kibu Vicuna.
Kerala Blasters could have taken the lead in the 22nd minute when Sahal Abdul Samad was presented with a one-on-one opportunity. The youngster dispossessed Fran Gonzalez in the final third and embarked on a solo run before unleashing a tame shot at the end.
Kibu Vicuna opined that Kerala Blasters performed brilliantly in the first half, but mistakes in the final third prevented them from scoring a goal.
"I don't think it was a completely different side (in the second half). The team was competing very well in the first half too. We had some good chances especially from Sahal (Abdul Samad). But, the lack of last pass and the decision cost us and we didn't score. In the second half, we played with Gary (Hooper) and Rahul KP to run behind the defensive line. And, we had more of the ball, but Bengaluru FC tracked back a little bit. We were playing in the opponent's half and created chances and scored two goals," Kibu further added.
Kerala Blasters coach Kibu Vicuna reveals why he deployed Jeakson Singh as a centre-back
In a surprising move, Kerala Blasters fielded Jeakson Singh as a central defender. The 19-year-old, who has played as a holding midfielder throughout his career, was deployed as a center-back for the first time against Bengaluru FC.
"We expected (Kristian) Opseth in the game. That's why physicality in the crosses was important. Also, he (Jeakson) is a midfielder, so playing from behind was easier. Also, he's a fast player and very tall. We were thinking about the opponent team. I am very happy with performance of all the players as they didn't press too much. Denechandra (Meetei) played a fantastic game. Also, Jeakson as a central defender showed that he can play both as a central defender or a holding midfielder. Sandeep (Singh) was very good in full-back position," Kibu concluded.
Kerala Blasters don't have much time to celebrate as they will lock horns with third-placed FC Goa on Saturday. The Gaurs won the corresponding fixture 3-1.