A John Johnson goal from what was to be the last chance of the game meant Bengaluru came away with all three points in a dominant show against Maziya Sports and Recreation Club in the AFC Cup in Maldives.
A humid afternoon saw the Blues outplay their opponents, creating multiple chances without a goal to show for, only for the defender to score in the dying moments to come away with a 1-0 result.
Four changes were made to the Blues’ side that took on Mohun Bagan last weekend with skipper Sunil Chhetri, Eugeneson Lyngdoh, Lenny Rodrigues handed starts while Salam Ranjan Singh replaced Nishu Kumar in defence.
The Blues started well from kick-off, with Udanta’s early swipe sailing over the bar before another shot from the 21-year-old, this time set up by skipper Sunil Chhetri, went inches high.
Udanta was in the thick of things once again when, in the 17th minute, his shot from the edge of the area was saved by Maziya ‘keeper Pavel Matiash. Defender Juanan then took a shot on the volley but it was wayward.
Maziya’s first chance of the half came when Mohammad Umair controlled a long diagonal only for his second touch to let him down, as Blues’ custodian Amrinder Singh advanced to collect without fuss.
Daniel Lalhlimpuia then combined with Chhetri to enter the Maziya area but the final pass was found wanting as Pavel collected. Maziya striker Imaaz Ahmed was at the end of the home side’s best chance of the half but Amrinder was equal to the shot from distance as both sides headed back into the tunnel with the scores unchanged.
The Blues pressed high from the start of the second half in search of the opener and almost got it when Cameron Watson’s shot from an Udanta cross bounced off a Maziya defender only for Juanan to smash high on the rebound.
Roca’s men spent the first fifteen minutes attacking the opposition area with Lenny and Watson constantly breaking up play while Udanta wreaked havoc down the flank. Lalhlimpuia wriggled free of his marker on two occasions but failed to find the target as his shots fizzled wide.
Sensing the need for aerial presence in the box, Roca sent on Marjan Jugovic in place of Rodrigues with half an hour to play. But it was Lalhlimpuia, who was at the end of every BFC move. The striker’s best chance came in the 67th minute when, after a play that was built right up from the back, the skipper laid it off only for it to be shot wide.
Maziya retreated into their own half for most parts of the second period as the Blues dominated possession and controlled play.
Nishu and Harmanjot Khabra were introduced for fresh legs down the flanks and it was the former who was involved as the Blues came closest to breaking the deadlock.
Nishu’s low cross from a narrow angle after a darting run into the box could not be tapped home by Udanta. Chhetri then agonizingly put away a chance from a brilliant one-two with Jugovic.
For all their dominance throughout the game, it was the final chance that had Bengaluru nick the points. A long punt forward from a free-kick taken by Amrinder was spilled by Matiash who should have punched instead of attempting to collect.
The ball fell to Jugovic who hooked the ball towards the goal and Johnson leapt high to divert the ball in with his foot. The Blues return to league duties next as they face Aizawl FC, at the Kanteerava Stadium, on Sunday.
Mohun Bagan rally to beat Abahani Limited 3-1
Mohun Bagan struck twice in a space of two minutes on either side of the break to bounce back and defeat Bangladeshi outfit Abahani Limited 3-1 for their first win in the AFC Cup.
Welshman Jonathan Brown (21st) put the five-time Bangladesh Premier League champions ahead following a flurry of attacks that resulted in six corners in the first 11 minutes. But the visitors failed to keep the momentum as Mohun Bagan stepped up near the half time with goals from Jeje Lalpekhlua (45+1st) and Balwant Singh (48th).
The Mohun Bagan forward, Singh, was in his element as he also brilliantly assisted their ace Haitian player Sony Norde (87th) to complete a fine win at the Rabindra Sarobar Stadium. Having suffered a 1-2 defeat to leaders Bengaluru FC (6 points) in an away fixture, Mohun Bagan (3) opened their account in group E after two matches, while Abahani are still to open their account.
The win has given some much-needed momentum to Mohun Bagan ahead of the return leg I-League derby against East Bengal in Siliguri on Sunday.
In title contention for the I-League title, Mohun Bagan were expected to bench their top players, but Sanjoy Sen surprised everyone by starting with both Katsumi Yusa and Norde. Playing with two foreigners in Brown and forward Emeka Darlington, the Sky Blues started off the block with a flurry of attacks but they could not capitalise till Brown put them ahead.
It was an easy goal as Mohammad Ziban darted in from the right and crossed to an unmarked Brown who put it past Debjit Majumder without much fuss. Balwant set up the goal playing a pass to Norde before Jeje took the possession and scored with a left-footer.
Minutes after the changeover, Katsumi got past his marker with a diagonal run into the box and released Balwant, who ran in and scored with a powerful left-footer that went over Mohammad Sahidul Alam’s head.
Mohun Bagan also missed two opportunities, first in the 66th minute following a fine run by substitute Prabir Das but his shot missed the target and hit the side-net. In the 77th minute Sahidul thwarted a fine effort from Balwant but it did not take long for Mohun Bagan to bring the third goal as 10 minutes later Norde made full use of Balwant’s pass inside the box to complete the tally with a solo effort.
Mohun Bagan take on Maldives Premier League champions Maziya Sports & Recreation in their next AFC Cup encounter at home on April 19.