Arrival of the team at Kochi airport / Photo: Screengrab from Mathrubhumi news
Kochi: Kerala Blasters FC (KBFC) arrived at the airport here on Saturday and received a warm welcome from fans, suggesting their unshackled loyalty to the team that lost in the knockout match with Bengaluru FC in a dramatic walkout climax. The team arrived in the afternoon and the fans were heard wooing the squad with chantings like “Ivan, Ivan (team coach Ivan Vukomanovic)” and “we are with you".
Meanwhile, coach Ivan avoided media persons’ questions on the dramatic walkout and maintained that the club will officially brief the matter. Similarly, ISL authorities had not made any official remarks on the KBFC's walkout or evoked any action.
Bengaluru FC advanced to the semi-finals of the ISL 2022-23 after a 1-0 victory over Kerala Blasters FC, who forfeit the match in the first half of extra time.
Sunil Chhetri scored the only goal of the match in the seventh minute of extra time to add a ninth consecutive win for his team, which confirmed a semi-final berth for them.
The Blasters dominated possession in the first half but couldn't get past Gurpreet Singh Sandhu in the Bengaluru FC goal. Relying on the quick feet of Roy Krishna and Sivasakthi Narayanan, the Blues were content to play on the counter.
The hosts had six shots in the first half, but only one on target. Three of those shots were attempted by Krishna. The Fijian registered the only shot on target of the half in the 24th minute from a tight angle. Gill almost parried it straight into the path of Hernandez, but it was cleared away for a corner from which Krishna failed to keep his header on target.
Three minutes after the half-hour-mark, Danish Farooq's glancing header from a corner was missed by an unmarked Victor Mongil at the far post before the flag went up for offside against the defender.
The second half was much the same, as the visitors kept more of the ball and the hosts waited to launch on the counter. The Blasters had a chance to test the keeper via a free kick in the 53rd minute, but Adrian Luna skied it. Around the hour-mark, Suresh Wangjam's effort from outside the box flew through traffic and forced a palm behind for a corner by Gill at full stretch.
In the final quarter of the match, the Blasters pressed further up the pitch, but the Bengaluru FC defence kept its shape to deflect attacks. In the 83rd minute, Dimitrios Diamantakos registered his side's first shot on target but his header was claimed comfortably by Sandhu before the game went into extra time.
In the first minute of extra time, Rahul KP tried his luck from range as his shot picked up a flick from Luna and went inches wide at the far post. Bengaluru FC responded instantly at the other end as Bruno Ramires got his head to a corner but sent it over the bar.
In the seventh minute of extra time, a quickly taken free kick by Chhetri flew into the back of the net. The Blasters forfeited the match in disagreement with the decision and a win was awarded to Bengaluru FC.
Bengaluru FC advanced to the next stage of the ISL playoffs. The Blues will take on League Shield Winners Mumbai City FC next in a two-legged semi-final on March 7 and 12 which starts with an away trip.
With IANS inputs