A young Bengaluru FC fought hard against a strong-looking Kerala Blasters FC at Kishore Bharati Stadium in a Group C clash. Justine Emmanuel and Mohammed Aimen scored goals for Kerala Blasters FC while Edmund Lalrindika and Ashish Jha scored for Bengaluru FC to make it 2-2 in one of the most exciting games of the group. With this draw, both teams bow out from the tournament with one game to go while Gokulam Kerala qualified for the last eight of the Durand Cup 2023.
After not having their preferred results in the first game, both teams looked for a win to remain in the contest in the Group C fixture of Durand Cup 2023. Kerala Blasters FC looked the better side on paper with lots of experienced campaigners on their team. However, the attempt of the game came from Bengaluru Football Club with goalscorer from the last match Salam Jhonson taking a go at the goal in the second minute of the game. Johnson would have been disappointed for not putting that ball into the goal.
But, the biggest miss of the first ten minutes came from Kerala Balsters' Prabir Das missing an easy chance in the sixth minute of the game. Prabir could not connect the shot properly from a delicious cross from Hormipam. In the eight-minute of the match, BFC goalkeeper Amrit Gope was forced to make a great save to deny Kerala their first goal of the match. Justine's header from an Adrian Luna cross was intended to be in the goal but was saved by Amrit to keep it zero-zero.
However, with a high-pressing game from Kerala Blasters FC, it was only about time that we see a goal in this Durand Cup clash. In the fourteenth minute of the match, Justine Emmanuel made sure he did not miss his second chance to net the ball. The Nigerian found the net with a low shot from the right side of the box. It was a tough angle to score, but the young striker made sure he gave an early lead to Kerala Blasters FC. Vibin Mohanan provided the important assist to Justine. Justine could have made it 2-0 just a minute after the goal, he could not connect the shot properly from the centre of the box.
Even with the lead, Kerala Blasters kept on pushing for the second one. In the 23rd minute, Danish Farooq had the chance to make it 2-0 but Amrit was there to deny it. But, against the run of play, in a counter-attack, Bengaluru FC showed why they are one of the best teams in India, even with a young side. It was Shankar Sampingiraj started the counter-attack with a long ball for Salam Jhonson who made a great run from the right to pass it to Edmund Lalrindika. Edmund netted the ball from outside the box to make it even-stevens in Kolkata.
The added minutes in the first half were exciting as well with Prabir Das clearing out a beautiful cross from Salam Jhonson. Then, Adrian Luna missed out on a volley from a corner in the last minute of the first half to keep it level in the break.
The second half started with a bang for coach Bibiano Fernandes' team. In the 52nd minute of the game, Ashish Jha gave the all-important lead to Bengaluru FC. Edmund Lalrinkdia made a great run from the left flank to cross it for Asish who first stops and makes a turn to score a stunning goal for Bengaluru. However, two minutes later, Justine had the chance to level it for Kerala Blasters. But, he decided to fall over with the ball inside the box looking for a penalty after a great run rather than shooting in the first place.
Kerala kept on attacking to make things level at the Kishore Bharati Stadium. In the 55th minute, Danish had the chance to score past Amrit but he missed the net by a whisker. To strengthen their team, Frank Dauwen brought in three fresh legs with Jeakson Singh, Saurav Mandal and Ishan Pandita coming on the field. However, it was Justine Emmanuel who kept on making all the moves inside the Kerala box.
Post coming on the pitch, Ishan Pandia always looked threatening without the results. Pandita twice missed an easy header missing out on the equaliser. Once in the 73rd minute and once in the 82nd minute, Pandita failed to score from an unmarked position. But, substitute Mohammed Aimen made sure he scored from a difficult angle to give Kerala the equaliser. A delicious pass from Adrian Luna from the left of the box found Aimen who hit the net from the left of Amirt Gope.
Bengaluru then went for the kill with Monirul Molla doing all the work from the right flank. Satendra Singh Yadav helped him in a few attacks. But, they could not find a winner despite Kerala going down to 10 men after Hormipam received a second yellow in the 84th minute of the match. With eight minutes added to the full ninety minutes, Bengaluru FC kept trying for the goal while Kerala Blasters kept looking to defend their pride. Satendra Singh Yadav missed the last chance of the match as he failed to be on target from inside the box.
With this draw, both teams bow out from the tournament while Gokulam Kerala qualify for the quarter-final of the Durand Cup 2023.