Title aspirants Aizawl FC suffered a jolt to their Hero I-League title aspirations when they went down to defending champions Bengaluru FC by a solitary goal scored in added time.
Both teams had their chances in the match and just when all had thought that points would be split, substitute Marjan Jugovic leapt higher than all to head in a perfect Sunil Chhetri free-kick taken from the edge of the box.
Courtesy the result, Aizawl stayed on 30 points from 15 matches while BFC moved to 21 points from 15 matches.
In the first half BFC were faster off the blocks and in the fourth minute a Chhetri header off a Cameron Watson corner hit the crosspiece and even as the ball rebounded to Chhetri, Aizawl goalkeeper Albino Gomes managed to collect it.
Azawl earned their first corner in the 10th minute but Jayesh Rane’s floater didn’t create any danger.
In the 18th minute, Rane snatched it from Chhetri and essayed it for Bayi Kamo but John Johnson’s timely interception thwarted it as Kamo was about to break free.
BFC came close in the 21st minute when Chhetri evaded Ashutosh Mehta’s outstretched leg and laid it for Daniel Lalhlimpuia. Daniel, the ex AIFF YDP product, dodged past Ralte but failed to beat Albino with his prompt left-footer, the Goalkepeer diving to his left to palm it away.
The very next minute itself BFC were forced in to bring in their first substitution – the talented Alwyn George replacing an injured Udanta ‘dynamite’ Singh.
Rane, in the meantime, was trying to gain control of the midfield, and two of his through passes almost did the trick for his team. First, Landanmawia following a Rane pass found himself ruled off-side, and then Kamo tried to build on a Rane pass but the BFC defence was equal to the task.
Aizawl, by that time looked the more dominant of the two sides and BFC survived twice in a span of 30 seconds in the 44th minute.
First, Mehta’s rasper rebounded off the post with a diving BFC custodian Amrinder Singh beaten and off the next attack, Rane’s curler narrowly missed by a whisker as both teams headed to the interval locked goalless.
Changing over, Amrinder denied Alfred Jayran, collecting promptly a shot which came directly to him.
BFC brought in their first substitution in the 60th minute – Jugovic coming in for Eugeneson Lyngdoh and was immediately flashed the yellow card two minutes later for a rough tackle.
BFC couldn’t make the most of a promising counter-attack when Chhetri, who was often falling back to help his defence snatched it in front of his penalty box and sped faster than any and passed it to Jogovic, but the latter mispassed much to the frustration of the fans.
In the 70th minute, Aizawl defender Zohmingliana Ralte recovered in time to intercept a Daniel shot which otherwise could have created danger, and four minutes later, Aizawl almost surged into the lead when Al Amna’s placement just sailed wide.
BFC midfielder Menny Rodrigues was shown the yellow in the 75th minute and was eventually replaced by Len Doungel.
Meanwhile, an alert Amrinder dived to his left to keep off Jaryan’s shot in the 76th minute.
Aizawl Coach Khalid Jamil brought in the second substitution thereafter – bringing in Laltanpuia for Laldanmawia.
Jamil must have had his heart in his mouth in the 85th minute when Chhetri cut past a couple, ran in but his right-footer narrowly missed the target.
Chhetri’s class was evident once again the next minute when he played a one-two with Juan Fernandez and entered the box but Albino was able to cut down the angle forcing Chhetri to shot directly at him.
Albert who came in for Jayesh Rane in added time almost had an immediate effect but Amrinder times his jump to perfection to collect his curler off his first touch in the match.
The best, however, was reserved for the last – Jugovic and Chhetri combining to break Aizawl hearts.