A late injury-time goal from Rahul KP handed Kerala Blasters a dramatic comeback 2-1 win over heated rivals Bengaluru FC in the Hero Indian Super League at the GMC Stadium on Wednesday.
An acrobatic first-half effort from Cleiton Silva (24') handed Bengaluru the lead before substitute Lalthathanga Khawlhring netted an equaliser (73'). The game looked to be heading for a draw before Rahul scored a brilliant individual effort in injury time.
Despite starting the game better, Kibu Vicuna's men lacked the final ball and was promptly punished by a Bengaluru goal that came arguably against the run of play.
After threatening in the opening exchanges, Kerala had their first clear-cut chance in the 18th minute when Jordan Murray's shot from inside the box went over the bar. Minutes later, Sahal Abdul Samad's threatening run into the box came to nothing.
Bengaluru promptly punished them for not making the most of their opportunities. Rahul Bheke's long throw from the right was not properly dealt with by the Kerala defence and it fell to Cleiton, whose acrobatic volley gave Kerala keeper Albino Gomes no chance.
Bengaluru had a chance to double the lead at the stroke of halftime when Costa Nhamoinesu fouled Sunil Chhetri just outside the box. Chhetri took the resulting free-kick and looked to be going in, but Albino pulled off a terrific save.
As was the case with the first half, it was Kerala who started the second period brighter. And similar to the first period, their failure to find that final pass meant that for all their bluster, they had nothing to show for it.
Their first chance came soon after the restart with Juanan brought down Lalthathanga just outside the box. Lalthathanga took the free-kick himself but only smashed it straight into the wall.
However, he made amends for it, albeit in contentious circumstances. Bengaluru keeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu went down after using his body to block a powerful Gary Hooper shot from close range. With Gurpreet still on the ground, Sandeep Singh fired the ball back into the box. After a melee, the ball finally broke free for Lalthathanga, who netted the equaliser.
Both teams pressed hard for the winner, getting free kicks from threatening positions that eventually came to nothing. Bengaluru came close to scoring, with substitute Leon Augustin finding himself clean through on goal in injury time. However, he failed to get the ball past the onrushing Albino.
There was still time for a late winner, though. After Bengaluru struck the post, a rapid counter-attack from the men in yellow saw Rahul sprint into the Bengaluru half. Instead of trying to find a teammate, he took the shot himself and beat Gurpreet for a dramatic winner.