Super Cup: Kerala Blasters down RoundGlass Punjab; Sreenidi Deccan hold Bengaluru FC

April 9, 2023

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Kerala Blasters downed RoundGlass Punjab FC 3-1 in a Group A match of the Super Cup at the EMS Corporation Stadium in Kozhikode on Saturday.

The local side now head the group with three points from one outing, while Bengaluru FC and Sreenidi Deccan FC, who drew 1-1 in the day’s first match, have one point each. The Punjab side, despite their spirited display, returned to the dressing room empty-handed.

The two sides looked evenly matched in the first 30 minutes and had a couple of chances each to take the lead, but neither could find the breakthrough. While Sahal Abdul Samad took on the creative responsibilities for the Kerala side, youngsters like Valpuia and Maheson Singh Tongbram showed a glimpse of their technical abilities.

It was the team from God’s Own Country that broke the deadlock in the 41st minute. RoundGlass goalkeeper Kiran Limbu made a poor clearance inside the box, which was followed by an error by Valpuia. The defender committed the mistake of bringing down Saurav Mandal inside the box and the referee rightfully pointed towards the spot. Skipper Dimitrios Diamantakos made no mistake to put the ball into the back of the net giving his side a 1-0 lead before half time.

Following the break, Kerala Blasters looked the better side as they dominated the proceedings and enjoyed more of the ball possession. Centre half Bijoy V did particularly well in staving off the Punjab attack.

In the 54th minute, the Blasters doubled their lead, this time with Nishu Kumar getting on the scoresheet. The full-back saw himself with ample space inside the box to look at the target, dummy off a defender and place the ball into the back of the net to make it 2-0.

Courtesy of a couple of substitutions, the I-League 2022-23 champions found their touch back and launched some forceful attacks. Juan Mera Gonzalez, one of the most hard-working players on the night, attempted a cross inside the box, which took a huge deflection and fell into the path of Krishnananda Singh. The attacker made no mistake in driving it in with a prompt volley to make it 2-1.

In the next five minutes, both sides came inches close to scoring. At one end, Blasters substitute Bidyashagar Singh saw his powerful attempt saved by Kiran Limbu. On the other hand, Juan Mera Gonzalez was denied by the crossbar as custodian Sachin Suresh used his fingertips to save the Spaniard’s attempt from outside the box.

Finally, local hero substitute Rahul KP put the game to bed by making it 3-1 for Blasters late in the additional time. The winger capitalised on a counter attack and smartly put it past the goalkeeper to hand his side the win.

Bengaluru held
Bengaluru FC began their Super Cup campaign with a 1-1 draw against Sreenidi Deccan on Saturday. First-half goals from Javi Hernandez and Faysal Shayesteh saw the spoils shared at the end of what was a close-fought encounter in humid conditions.

Blues’ Head Coach Simon Grayson named a starting eleven featuring Gurpreet Singh Sandhu in goal and a back three comprising Sandesh Jhingan, Parag Shrivas and Bruno Ramires. Javi, who was the top scorer for Bengaluru in the 2022-23 Indian Super League, manned the midfield along with Rohit Kumar and Suresh Wangjam as the duo of Sunil Chhetri and Roy Krishna led the line for Grayson’s side.

Bengaluru dominated the early exchanges and didn’t take long to open the scoring, with Javi finding himself on the scoresheet as early as the 9th minute. The Spaniard saw his initial shot from the edge of the box saved by Deccan goalkeeper Aryan, and the shot-stopper then parried an attempt on the rebound by Roy Krishna before running out of luck when Javi was on point to smash home at the third time of asking.

Carlos Vaz Pinto’s side equalized just over 10 minutes later when Shayesteh equalized in the 21st minute. The Afghan international picked a pass from Rilwan Hassan in the box and cut in from the left before unleashing a shot that deflected off Parag Shrivas and into the back of the net past Gurpreet.

The game continued to flow at a brisk tempo with both sides packed with intent to attack and score. Naorem Roshan Singh and Rosenberg Gabriel were involved in an intense battle on the wings, as the two proved influential to the attacking fortunes of their respective outfits. The defensive units of both teams were kept busy in an entertaining first 45 minutes, but ensured that the game stayed at 1-1 heading in at the break.

Bengaluru started the second period in the same vein as the first, creating more chances and carrying the threat to the opposition. But Sreenidi Deccan came knocking on the Blues’ door in the 56th minute when Gabriel’s cross from the right narrowly evaded Arijit Bogui’s head with the winger bearing down on Gurpreet’s goal.

Grayson was the first to go to his bench, bringing on Namgyal Bhutia in place of Prabir Das and handing a first-team debut for 18-year old Lalremtluanga Fanai, who came on in place of Rohit Kumar. A few minutes later, Sivasakthi and Pablo Perez were called upon to replace Krishna and Parag as the Blues pushed for the lead.

Chances were few and far between despite the efforts of the two teams as heat and fatigue took a toll. Bengaluru came close to taking the lead from a late opportunity that fell to Chhetri. Roshan’s cross found the skipper at the far post, but Chhetri didn’t get enough purchase on the header.

In the next round of Group A on April 12, Wednesday, Kerala Blasters face off against Sreenidi Deccan in Kozhikode. Meanwhile, RoundGlass Punjab FC will clash heads with ISL 2022-23 finalists Bengaluru FC at the same venue.