Bengaluru FC suffered a 2-1 defeat to Kerala Blasters in the Indian Super League after Bartholomew Ogbeche netted a brace (45th and 72nd minutes) as the hosts came back from a goal down at the Jawaharlal Nehrun Stadium in Kochi on Saturday.
This was the Blasters’ first win over the Blues.
Bengaluru FC have already secured their place in the playoffs, sitting pretty at the third spot with 19 points from 17 games while Kerala are placed seventh with 18 points from as many matches.
A strike from Jamaican striker Deshorn Brown had given the Blues the lead before the Nigerian fired home a free-kick and a penalty to turn the tide in favour of the Blasters in their final home game of the season.
With Juanan Gonzalez missing the fixture owing to a suspension, Carles Cuadrat chose to start with what looked like five at the back where Erik Paartalu stood at the heart of the defence.
Spaniard Nili Perdomo was handed his first start in the League, playing on the left in attack while Udanta Singh and Deshorn Brown completed the trio ahead. And it was Brown – hat-trick hero from the AFC Cup game on Wednesday - who handed Bengaluru the lead in the 16th minute when he brought down a pass from Suresh Wangjam that dragged Bilal Khan out, before slotting calmly into an empty net.
Bengaluru squandered a big chance to add to the goal just before half-time when Perdomo slipped Udanta on goal. With only Khan to beat in goal, Udanta delayed taking his shot and was stolen off possession by the retreating Kerala defence.
Minutes later, the Blues would be left to rue the missed opportunity after Ogbeche levelled things for the hosts with what was the last action of the half. Armed with a freekick just yards outside the Bengaluru box, Ogbeche hit his take low and hard – one that Gurpreet Singh Sandhu should have done better to save, as the ball rolled from under the Bengaluru ’keeper to make it 1-1.
Cuadrat made the first change of the game, bringing on Ashique Kuruniyan on the wings for Udanta, as Bengaluru looked to shuffle things in attack early in the second half. On the hour mark, the Spaniard then threw in Semboi Haokip for Brown.
But it was the hosts who shot into the lead soon when Ogbeche scored his second of the night, this time from a penalty in the 72nd minute. Trying to defend a ball played into the Bengaluru box, Albert Serran tugged down Raphael Bouli prompting referee Ajit Meitei to point to the spot. The striker sent Gurpreet the wrong way to make it 2-1 and score his 13th of the season.
Bengaluru pressed forward in search of the equalizer, as Cuadrat brought on new signing Kevaughn Frater for the final quarter of an hour, replacing Nili Perdomo. But it simply wasn’t to be as the hosts ran the clock down to claim their first victory over the Blues in six attempts.
The Blues travel to Maldives next, where a playoff round first leg clash against Maziya S&RC awaits them in the 2020 AFC Cup, on Wednesday.