Sakai, Diamantakos goals give Sachin-inspired Blasters 2-1 win over East Bengal

Daisuke Sakai of Kerala Blasters celebrates scoring the opening goal against East Bengal. Abhijit Addya/Focus Sports/ISL

Kerala Blasters continued their strong start to the 2023-24 ISL season with a rather dramatic 2-1 victory against East Bengal at the Salt Lake stadium in Kolkata. Goals from Daisuke Sakai and Dimitrios Diamantakos were enough for the three points as a late Cleiton Silva penalty only proved to be a consolation. Sachin Suresh, the Blasters keeper, had a major role to play saving a second-half Silva penalty, and then a retake of that penalty. The first half was all Blasters, as their intensity and pressing put off an East Bengal side that were stuck in neutral. They got their reward in the 32nd minute when Adrian Luna played a sensational ball out wide to Sakai, who trapped it, cut in, and placed it into the bottom corner of the net.

By the end of the half, the home crowd were jeering their side's half-hearted attempts to create any kind of chance.

Carles Cuadrat made three changes to the East Bengal XI at halftime, hoping to jumpstart the team... and they had an immediate effect. The passing was snappier, the play was further up the field, and they dominated proceedings.

The pressure finally told when a Nandhakumar Sekar stinger was spilled by Sachin, who then brought down a till-then quiet Mahesh Singh to give EB a penalty. Up stepped Silva, who placed a tame effort straight into the hands of Sachin. The assistant, though, spotted an infringement from the Blasters keeper and the ref ordered a retake - which saw another tame effort saved easily by Sachin, as he wasn't fooled by the stutter step halt that Silva tried. Silva then blazed the rebound high with Sachin well out of the picture.

That seemed to suck the life out of EB's attacking momentum, and a defensive mixup in the 88th minute gifted Diamantakos an one-on-one, and he duly rifled it home. He was also immediately sent off as he'd taken his shirt off in celebration, earning himself a second yellow.

EB didn't trouble the 10-man Blasters till the very last minute of stoppage time (the 8th) when the till-then excellent Sandeep Singh raised his hands in the box to concede a penalty. This time Silva made no mistake, lashing an unstoppable shot high into the top left corner. That, though, was the last kick of the game.

The Blasters are now top of the league with 13 points in six, though Mohun Bagan are just a point behind with two games in hand. East Bengal are in tenth, with just four points in five games.

You can relive minute-by-minute highlights right here:

(Please wait a few seconds for the blog to load. Please click here if it doesn't.)