KOCHI: “When the blues go marching in...” The chant refused to die even 30 minutes after the match between the Kerala Blasters and Bengaluru FC ended here. The men in blue, despite being outnumbered by the Kerala Blasters’ yellow army, were on their toes, celebrating their two-fold win.
The Blasters’ much-famed fans in yellow had started deserting the stadium dejected. With the crowd depleting, the gigantic concrete stands resembled a colosseum that had run out of action and was awaiting the return of gladiators and roaring spectators. The only thing that kept the amphitheatre from falling into slumber was a faint — compared to the din created by Blasters’ army outside — chant of a few scores of young fans, all clad in blue, for whom the evening had offered plentiful to celebrate.
First and foremost — the Blues had won. They had won the first leg of the hyped war that saw many battles being fought in cyberspace. Pound by pound. Meme by meme. It’s not for nothing that the Blasters-Bengaluru tie was billed by some as a hotly contested derby. Even Blasters’ boss Rene Meulensteen was goaded into admitting just that. “Well, we have to treat this match as one with a little bit of a special edge. It has a derby feel to it,” he had told the media during the pre-match presser.
But on Sunday, it was all about the Blues’ marching on. In hot pursuit of a win that would elevate them to the second spot with 15 points, Bengaluru was in simmering red-hot form and as the visitors, buoyed by a Sunil Chhetri spot-kick and Venezuelan striker Miku’s brace, trampled the hosts 3-1.
Though Blasters managed to stitch together some decent moves early on, Bengaluru soon took command. With Udanta Singh and Chhetri on the flanks and Miku spearheading the offensive, the visitors had a clear upper hand in the proceedings.
The jinx was broken around the hour mark when Chhetri’s pass to Miku hit Sandesh Jhinghan on his arm and the resulting penalty was easily slotted in by Chhetri. Blasters severely missed the services of Dimitar Berbatov, who is nursing a calf injury picked up in Goa three weeks ago. CK Vineeth was omitted from the lineup. Though Mark Sifneos has been among goals, he was virtually unfanged as the Blasters midfielders failed to provide him with enough service.
It appeared as if Bengaluru would walk away with a slender lead. But that was not to be. Five minutes of extra time was more than enough for Miku to score two goals. Miku’s first goal was assisted by Edu Garcia, the Spaniard’s through ball slotted in by the former after getting in behind Blasters’ rearguard.
Soon, Miku capitalised on a sleeping defence and netted again after being fed by Subhashish Bose. Courage Pekuson scored a consolation goal for the Blasters just before the final whistle.