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ISL Eliminator: Kerala Blasters players walk off pitch; match abandoned

Kerala Blasters walked off the pitch against Bengaluru FC in ISL eliminator after a controversial free-kick resulting in a BFC win.

ISL Eliminator: Kerala Blasters players walk off pitch; match abandoned

FILE PHOTO: Kerala Blasters celebrating their win against Mumbai City FC in the 2021-22 season.


The Bridge Desk

Updated: 4 March 2023 3:29 AM GMT

In one of the rarest and most controversial moments of Indian football, ISL outfit Kerala Blasters walked off the pitch during their eliminator match against Bengaluru FC.

The eliminator between Kerala Blasters and Bengaluru FC went to extra time and it was going all well until Sunil Chhetri put the ball in the back of the net from a free kick.

In the 95th minute of extra time, Sunil Chhetri was fouled just outside the box of Kerala Blasters and he decided to take it.

In a moment of confusion, while the Kerala Blasters' defensive wall was being set up by the goalkeeper, Sunil Chhetri scored the goal.

To the shock of the crowd and Kerala Blasters players, referee Crystal John allowed the goal.

Replays showed that Crystal John allowed Sunil Chhetri to take the free-kick but he failed to blow the whistle or put the vanishing spray. The point of contention was that no spray was being put in and no clear sign of the whistle being blown.

The aftermath of the goal saw Kerala Blasters coach Ivan Vukomanović storming on the pitch and calling his players back. The dugout of Kerala Blasters was animated while KBFC players argued their case in front of the referee.

This season of the Indian Super League has been hit by poor refereeing decisions with every club and coach complaining about it.

Speaking to the broadcasters post match, Chhetri said, "Referee (Crystal John) told he didn't need a whistle to be blown or player wall, I asked him if he was sure and he said "Yes". Guess Luna heard it and that's why he tried blocking once. This is not the right way to do it (on KBFC walking off)."

"I've never seen in my 22 years of career. I always ask the referee. It was a bitter sweet moment. But I'm happy that we are through to the semfinals," Chhetri added.

Match Commissioner decided to call off the match after Kerala Blasters refused to come back and Bengaluru FC will play shield winners Mumbai City FC in the semi-finals.

The Blasters could now face heavy sanctions from the ISL organisers for their actions at the Kanteerava Stadium on Friday.

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