Kerala United FC 1 (48’ Bujair Valiyattu)
Kenkre FC 2 (65’ Lester Fernandez, 72’ Ranjeet Singh)
BENGALURU: Kenkre FC put up an impressive display of grit and determination to win their opening Group B encounter against Kerala United FC (KUFC) at the Bangalore Football Stadium. After going 1-0 behind early in the second half with a goal from winger Bujair Valiyattu, Kenkre FC came from behind to register a 2-1 victory over KUFC, thanks to goals from substitute Lester Fernandez and striker Ranjeet Singh. The win sends Kenkre FC at the top of Group B, with the remaining matches in the group yet to kick-off.
The match began with both teams going through the motions to grow into the game in the first ten minutes, as KUFC implemented a rigorous high press to try and win the ball back high up the pitch. In the 7th minute, KUFC left back Munmum Lugun had the first sighting of goal as he took on a shot from distance that drew the first save of the game from Kenkre FC goalkeeper Tenzin Samdup.
Kenkre FC had their first crack at goal in the 12th minute, after winning a free-kick in a promising position 20 yards from goal. Aravind Rajan stepped up to take the set piece for Kenkre, but the KUFC wall combined to block the direct free-kick.
By the 15th minute into the game, KUFC midfielders Akhil P and Adersh Mattummal were dominating proceedings for the side from Kerala. In the heart of the KUFC defence, Gabriel Lima remained a towering presence as he continued to diffuse opposition attacks, and initiated passing moves from the back.
As both teams tried to play through the middle and keep the ball, both midfields were working hard to win the ball back for their respective teams time and time again. Overall, the first half remained a fairly scrappy affair, as both teams went back and forth at each other. Kiran Pandhare tried to get on the ball for Kenkre and dictate play for his team from the heart of midfield.
In the 29th minute, the play was called to a halt for one minute by the referee for a cooling break. This has been a new post-pandemic introduction into the domestic game, which teams often use to regroup after the first phase of the match. KUFC immediately upped the ante after the cooling break, restarting play with a renewed attacking vigour. In the 31st minute, KUFC winger Bujair Valiyattu fashioned an excellent opportunity for himself, as he received a pass from Adersh and came onto his favoured left foot to take a shot from just inside the box. After creating a shooting opportunity, Bujair placed his fierce low drive just towards the wrong side of the near post.
The match remained at a stalemate at the halfway point, as the first half drew to a close. The Kerala side had the slightly better chances in the first half, but Kenkre FC remained in the game throughout, even shading the possession stats in their advantage, with 57% of the ball possession in the first half.
Kerala United made the first breakthrough three minutes after half time, as they eventually added final product to their promising patterns of play. As Akhil P fed the ball out to the left flank, Salman K found himself in space to produce a good cross, which was flicked on at the near post by Nimshad Roshan. Bujair Valiyattu timed his run perfectly to come in at the far post and rifle the ball high into Tenzin’s goal to make it 1-0 for Kerala United.
As KUFC took charge in the game and looked likely to add to their advantage, Kenkre FC were helped by the introduction of substitute Lester Fernandez, who brought a measure of experience and composure to Kenkre’s play. Fernandez expertly slotted away a penalty for Kenkre FC in the 65th minute, after Gabriel Lima gave away a foul inside the box with a mistimed lunging tackle.
After coming back on level terms, Kenkre FC made it a double whammy seven minutes later in the 72nd minute to turn the game around after going behind. Aravind Rajan sent in a peach of a low cross from the right flank after a fast flowing move, which Ranjeet Singh finished from close range to give Kenkre FC a 2-1 lead to hold onto for the remainder of the game.
Kenkre FC proved to be a resolute defensive unit for the final 15 minutes of the game, as they held on to the slender one goal lead in the face of continuous pressure from the KUFC ranks towards the end of the game. As KUFC dominated the ball and continued to try and force the issue, they were largely confined to chances from set-plays and attempts from range, as the Kerala side struggled to break down the Kenkre FC defence.
That match finished with a 2-1 win for the side from Maharashtra, leaving it all to do for KUFC for the rest of the group stage matches. Kenkre FC will now look forward to their next encounter against ARA FC on October 9, 2021.
Corbett FC 1 (Himanshu Patil 15′)
ARA FC 1 (Vladislav Nuriev 75′)
Bengaluru: A late surge by ARA FC spoilt the party for debutants Corbett FC who looked poised to take home three points in their opening match in Pool B here at the ongoing Hero I-League Qualifiers being held at the Bangalore Football Stadium. It was a well-timed assist from Dieye Hamiddu to Vladislav Nuriev who scored the equaliser in the 75th minute that ended the hard-fought contest in a draw.
Earlier in the game, Corbett FC hardly wore the look of a debutant team as they kicked off their campaign with a structured attack. They created potential scoring opportunities within the first three minutes of the game putting the right amount of pressure on the ARA FC defence.
Building on a strong attack, Corbett FC drew first blood in the 16th minute when a cross by Jacob Vanlalhimpuia was picked up beautifully by Himanshu Patil who made no mistake in putting the ball past ARA FC goalkeeper Sukhadev Shivaji Patil. The 1-0 lead gave Corbett FC just the kind of start they were looking for in their maiden appearance and this totally put the ARA FC on the backfoot who desperately vied for those elusive goals in the following minutes.
Young goalkeeper for Corbett FC Dhiraj Prakash Meher was excellent in his saves to keep his team in the game. During the course of the game, Corbett FC’s Navin Rawat, Subodh Kumar and Sohail T took a shot on goal each while Himanshu had three to his name with the last one coming in the dying minutes of the game but his attempt was slightly off the mark.
Although behind by a goal, ARA FC made a valiant attempt on goal in the 21st minute when Omkar Shivaji More did well to get past Corbett FC defenders to assist Alen Deory who put the ball into the net but an off-side call by the referee denied them the equaliser.
In the following minutes, both teams tried to play through the middle and keep the ball, midfielders of both the sides were working hard to win the ball back for their respective teams time and time again. Corbett FC’s star striker Himanshu created yet another fantastic opportunity for his team in the 32nd minute, but his cut-back for Navin Rawat was not capitalised upon. With a defender racing behind him, Rawat’s shot went way off target.
Overall, the first half was well-contested by both teams. While the newcomers did well to take the lead, ARA FC dominated the proceedings with better ball possession and took six shots on target but failed to convert.
At halftime, Corbett remained in 1-0 lead with ARA FC hunting for an equaliser. In the second half, however, ARA FC made amends to their poor start as they stitched together an improvised attack and kept the Corbett strikers at bay. They continued to hold on to the ball and made space in the middle to create scoring opportunities.
While the ARA FC star striker took eight shots on goal, Alen Deory and Omkar took three shoots on goal each, while Bala and Tigga took two each. But their breakthrough came in the 75th minute after a clever substitution was made by Coach Vivek Nagul. Nuriev ran onto a cheeky pass by Dieye Hamidou, and slotted it into the back of the net.
Though the side from Ahmedabad mounted a late charge to earn the three points, the match ended with a 1-1 scoreline, with both the teams sharing the spoils.
In their next match, Corbett FC will face Kerala United, while ARA FC will face Delhi FC on 7th October 2021.