Bengaluru, Oct 5 (IANS) Kenkre FC put up an impressive display of grit and determination to win their opening Group B encounter 2-1 against Kerala United FC (KUFC) at the Bangalore Football Stadium, here on Tuesday.
After trailing 1-0 early in the second half with a goal from winger Bujair Valiyattu, Kenkre FC came from behind to register victory over KUFC, thanks to goals from substitute Lester Fernandez and striker Ranjeet Singh.
The win sends Kenkre FC to 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.
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, KUFC midfielders Akhil P and Adersh Mattummal were dominating proceedings. 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.
In the 29th minute, the play was called to a halt for one minute by the referee for a cooling break. KUFC immediately upped the ante after the cooling break, restarting play with a renewed attacking vigour.
However, the match remained at a stalemate at the halfway point.
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 per cent of the ball possession in the first half.
Kerala United made the breakthrough three minutes after half time, as they eventually added the 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.
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.
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 face ARA FC in their next encounter on October 9.