London / Leicester, July 30: The Next Generation Cup, 2022 challenge for Bengaluru FC and Kerala Blasters FC ended with much to learn for the two Indian clubs. Both managed to finish fourth in their respective groups after an enriching couple of encounters with Premier League academy teams. While Bengaluru FC lost to Nottingham Forest, Crystal Palace got the better of Kerala Blasters FC in their respective 3rd/4th place playoffs in the United Kingdom, on Saturday.
Bengaluru FC went down 1-6 against Nottingham Forest at the Leicester City Academy ground while the Kerala Blasters FC lost 1-4 at the Hotspur Way Training Ground to the Londoners to end an exciting week for the Hero Indian Super League (ISL) clubs’ reserve sides in the UK.
The Next Generation Cup featured five Premier League academy teams and one from South Africa apart from the two Indian clubs. The international competition is part of Premier League’s long-term partnership with Football Sports Development Limited (FSDL) aimed at holistically developing football in India.
The Blues were beaten 3-6 by Leicester City in the semi-final of the Midlands leg on Wednesday while the Blasters suffered a 0-7 reverse against Tottenham Hotspur in the London pool last four clash.
With a chance to grab third place in their respective groups, Bengaluru FC and Kerala Blasters FC fought valiantly but eventually came unstuck.
Much to learn for the Blues against Forest
Bengaluru FC didn’t make the best of starts to their 3rd place playoff match against Nottingham Forest as the English side scored twice in the opening fifteen minutes.
Dale Taylor opened the scoring for Forest in the 8th minute before Josh Powell doubled the advantage three minutes later to put his side in a commanding position.
Bengaluru FC though responded well to the early setbacks by asking questions at the Forest backline. Shighil NS saw his attempt saved by the Forest goalkeeper in the 37th minute as the Blues threatened to halve the deficit.
But four minutes from the interval, Taylor added a third for Nottingham Forest as they took complete control of the match.
But Naushad Moosa’s side came out positively for the second half just as they did against Leicester City in the last match and pulled a goal back in the 51st minute as Kamalesh P finished off a fine move from the Blues after being fed by Bekey Oram inside the box.
The goal gave the Indian side the impetus to push for a comeback as they put Forest under pressure on occasions but the English side eventually killed the game as a contest when Esapa Osong made it 4-1 in the 69th minute.
Moosa’s side though continued to compete well and avoided further damage until the dying minutes of the match. Osong scored his second of the game to make it 5-1 in the 88th minute before completing his hat-trick in stoppage time to make it 6-1 in Forest’s favour.
It was a harsh lesson for Bengaluru FC in the Next Gen Cup, but one from which they will learn a lot. Moosa’s men did enough in their two matches in the UK to be proud of their performances.
Resilient Blasters earn Crystal Palace respect
Kerala Blasters FC showed plenty of fight and spirit in their 3rd place playoff match against Crystal Palace but were beaten 4-1 in the end.
Goalkeeper Sachin Suresh was one of the standout performers for the Indian side in goal as he produced a string of top saves.
He was called into action as early as the 11th minute when he denied Palace the opening goal after the Londoners managed to unlock the Blasters’ defence.
Sachin then produced another brilliant save in the 29th minute when he saved a header from point-blank range from Palace’ Ola-Abedomi. However, the Palace attacker could not be denied a minute later as he made the breakthrough for his team.
Palace threatened again eight minutes later but Bijoy made a solid block to deny Mooney.
The Blasters managed to be within just a goal of their opponents at the interval as they went into the second half with their hopes very much intact.
However, just five minutes into the restart, Mooney doubled Palace’s lead with a well-taken goal to give the Londoners some breathing space.
But the Blasters produced the perfect response to the setback by winning a penalty at the other end which was converted by captain Ayush Adhikari in the 52nd minute to get Kerala Blasters FC right back in the mix.
Tomas Tchorz’s side continued to remain on the front foot with an aim to restore parity in the contest but it left gaps for Palace to exploit. In the 66th minute, Williams scored a third for the London side to take the game away from the Blasters. Konda then put the result beyond all doubt, scoring Palace’s fourth goal eight minutes from time.
The Blasters continued to play on the front foot as the game drew to a close but they could not find another goal.
Palace claimed third place in the London leg as Kerala Blasters FC ended their Next Gen Cup campaign with loads of wonderful experiences to take home from their UK tour.