ISL: East Bengal FC get the better of Kerala Blasters FC in six-goal thriller

Kochi, April 3 (IANS) Kerala Blasters FC suffered a 4-2 loss to East Bengal FC as the Yellow Army fell to a crushing defeat a day after they qualified for the Indian Super League (ISL) 2023-24 playoffs, here at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium.

A brace each by Saul Crespo and Naorem Mahesh Singh ensured that the Red & Gold Brigade kept their playoff hopes alive after garnering only their second win in their last five matches. East Bengal FC has now moved to 21 points from 20 matches, and their upcoming fixtures against Bengaluru FC and Punjab FC will be critical to see if they manage to break into the top-six.

The Carles Cuadrat-coached side began gaining a hold over the proceedings particularly in the second half, when they struck the back of the net thrice to beat the home side. However, it was the home side that had gotten the first foot ahead in the contest. Rahul KP, operating through the right flank, pounced upon an East Bengal FC backline that was all over the place. The attacker delivered a ball to Fedor Cernych who booted it beyond Karanjit Singh to open the scoring.

The visitors, however, ensured that they didn’t go into the break trailing. PV Vishnu earned a foul inside the 18-yard box for East Bengal FC, but that was preceded with East Bengal FC winning a one-man advantage due to the sending off of Kerala Blasters FC midfielder Jeakson Singh. Saul stepped up on the spot, slotting the ball comfortably on the bottom right corner to secure the equaliser.

Kerala Blasters FC forward Daisuke Sakai tried hard to get the scoreline tilting in favour of the home side in the opening 15 minutes of the second half. At least two curling efforts by the Japanese winger missed resulting in the second goal of the game for his side by a marginal distance.

At the same time, it wasn’t the best of days for Kerala Blasters FC goalkeeper Karanjit Singh. In the 71st minute, he ended up misplacing a pass that was quickly picked up by Aman CK on the right flank for East Bengal FC. Aman laid up a straightforward assist for Saul, who netted to bring his team into the lead. Three minutes later, Kerala Blasters FC defender Naocha Singh was sent off, paving the way for the visitors to double down their goal-scoring endeavours.

Acting upon the same, Naorem Mahesh Singh showed smart footwork to play a swift one-two with Cleiton Silva in the 82nd minute. Silva had a chance to take a shot at goal himself, but he laid the ball in the path of Mahesh, who angled the ball into the back of the net to perfection. Two minutes later, Kerala Blasters FC saw a slight window of chance opening for them, with a cross by Sandeep Singh nodded into goal by East Bengal FC defender Hijazi Maher. Three minutes later, Mahesh recovered that room of comfort for the Red & Gold Brigade, hitting the ball on the top right corner from the outside of his boot through an assist by Victor Vazquez, ensuring the three points for his team.

Mahesh completed 49 out of his 57 passes, tackling twice, winning two fouls, creating four goal-scoring opportunities and sending the ball into the net twice to get his side this crucial win.

Kerala Blasters FC will next play against NorthEast United FC on Saturday, whereas East Bengal FC returns to action against Bengaluru FC the following day, i.e. April 7.

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