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The Times of India

Bengaluru FC hold Kerala Blasters to emerge inaugural RFDL champions

A goalless draw in the title-decider against Kerala Blasters FC meant Bengaluru FC were crowned champions of the inaugural edition of Reliance Foundation Development League (RFDL) on Thursday evening. However, the result proved to be a reflection of how evenly these two teams were matched. Both teams will now represent India in NextGen Cup to be held in the UK later this year.

The game got off to a cagey start with both teams keeping possession for large parts. Mohammed Aimen came closest to scoring early on for Kerala, his shot coming off the post after goalkeeper Sharon had made a good stop.

Damaitphang Lyngdoh had Bengaluru’s best chance of the first half, but his attempt from the edge of the box following a counter-attack came off the crossbar. Jagdeep Singh was Blues’ saviour in the second period, clearing Aimen’s effort off the line after Vincy Barretto had skipped past substitute goalkeeper Dipesh Chauhan to set up the striker.

Bengaluru had to avoid a loss against Kerala to clinch the crown, and over 90 minutes at the packed Benaulim ground in Goa, the Blues managed to hold their rivals who finished with 16 points from their seven games. Bengaluru ended their campaign as the only unbeaten side in the league with 19 points from as many matches.

“All the teams were very competitive. This tournament really helped us get some competitive games to understand the level of the players. It's also a good platform for even the coaches,” Bengaluru coach Naushad Moosa said after the game.

“I would like to congratulate Kerala, the way they played. They were the best team. I am proud of the boys, the way they played throughout the tournament,” he added.

Bengaluru captain Namgyal Bhutia said: “This is our first trophy after two years. I am very happy for the team. This tournament has helped us develop as a unit. We are very excited to qualify for NextGen Cup. We will try to do well there also.”

Kerala coach Tomasz Tchorz praised his team for a good show. “We played very well, dominated the opponent, and created a lot of chances. We were the best team and we had the best players. Bengaluru are a good team, too,” said the Polish coach. “Tournaments like these help in getting more game time for the players.”

Bengaluru striker Rahul Raju, with seven goals to his name, won the Golden Boot award for scoring the most number of goals while midfielder Bekey Oram was handed the Golden Ball award for being the player of the tournament. Kerala’s Sachin Suresh won the Golden Glove for his exploits under the bar, which includes six clean sheets.