Bengaluru FC took a step further in progressing from the 2017 AFC Cup, Group E as they saw the back of Abahani Limited Dhaka defeating the Bangladeshi side 2-0 at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium on Tuesday.
Nishu Kumar (40') broke the deadlock in the first half and inspired his teammates to pull another through Serbian Marjan Jugovic (82') to condemn the Sky Blue Brigade to their third successive loss in the tournament.
Last year’s runners-up made four changes to the side that brushed aside Shillong Lajong in their previous game, in the I-League. Arindam Bhattacharya, Cameron Watson, Alwyn George and Marjan Jugovic were out, and in came Lalthuammawia Ralte, Lenny Rodrigues, Seminlen ‘Len’ Doungel and Daniel Lalhlimpuia.
Abahani, on the other hand, named a side unchanged to the one that took the field against Mohun Bagan in their previous AFC Cup encounter.
The first real chance of the game came twelve minutes in when Len came close to heading the ball into an empty net. Juanan had played the ball into the box and the keeper Sahidul Alam committed himself, but couldn’t reach it. Len was steaming in from the right, and his diving header was just a bit too high.
In the very next minute, John Johnson had a great chance as he rose the highest from a corner, but his header was inches high.
In the 25th minute, Abahani had a chance that should have given them the lead. A lack of communication in defense meant that Mohammad Ziban sneaked past Salam Ranjan Singh and Juanan to go one-on-one against the keeper. But Ralte did superbly and came to close his angle down and eventually make the save.
With half an hour gone, Eugeneson Lyngdoh found Sunil Chhetri with a well-worked pass and the skipper played a one-two with Len, before playing another one-two, this time with Daniel, but the return pass was hit slightly behind him.
Ten minutes later, Bengaluru had their first goal. Nishu Kumar, one of the best performers on the night, got on the end of Daniel’s pass, and after taking a touch, smashed it past Sahidul.
Right before the end of the half, Juanan forced a double save from Sahidul who managed to keep the Bangladeshi side in the game.
The second half began sluggishly, until the hour mark, when Harmanjot Khabra had a glorious opportunity to double the lead. He was played through by Eugeneson, and with the keeper at his mercy, he ended up hitting it straight at the keeper, spurning the chance.
Minutes later, Chhetri raced into the box and sliced a shot that had the keeper beaten, but the Abahani skipper Mamun Miah was on the goalline to hook it away superbly.
But the second goal looked inevitable and it did come in the 82nd minute via Marjan Jugovic. The Serbian was on the receiving end of Eugeneson’s pass, who in turn was played in after good work by Malsawmzuala. After a poor first touch, Jugovic eased the Bengaluru faithful’s nerves with a thumping shot that hit the post, then the ground and came out. But the assistant referee’s call meant that the goal stood.
Bengaluru collected a well-fought three points on the night, and remain atop the group irrespective of what happens tomorrow when Mohun Bagan face Maziya.