Bengaluru FC got their first taste of the Asia Cup as they faced Maziya Sports and Recreation FC. The occasion was fittingly marked by brand new hoardings to the fringes of the Kanteerava grass.
Bengaluru FC Dominate First Half; Rue Missed Chances
Although starting the first half on a tentative note due to the occasion, the Blues found their feet soon and began attacking the Maziya goal relentlessly. An early, physical dominance was clearly established by the home team. Having missed the 4-1 loss to Mohun Bagan, Curtis Osano was greeted by the West Block A faithful with their trademark welcome “Oh! up up Osano!”. An injury to Josh Walker meant that Siam Hanghal came on in his place after a few minutes play.
A series of corners and free-kicks resulted in the home team charting a clear edge in the first half. Eugeneson Lyngdoh and Siam Hanghal played chief orchestrators. Sunil Chhetri once more displayed his poise and class as he created trouble for the Maziya defence on the left flank. The continual attacks and cries of “attack, attack, attack” from the 6000 odd Bengaluru fans ensured that the relentless attacking did not cease. The best chance of the half incidentally fell to Siam Hanghal. The young Indian star found his shot palmed on the bar by Ali Amdhan.
Thus ended a half with the score at a goalless stalemate, a huge understatement to the events of the half.
Maziya Come Out All Guns Blazing; Chhetri Scores
Maziya FC came into the second half with a purpose- to beat the champions of India in their own back yard. Striker Pablo Rodriguez succeeded in testing Lalthuammawia Ralte on a couple of occasions. However, the Bengaluru defensive pair of Curtis Osano and John Johnson stood strong and solid. The rejuvenation of the Maldives club was short lived as Bengaluru were once more on the attack. Only this time, it was with more purpose and industry.
With 66 minutes gone, a moment of brilliance from skipper Sunil Chhetri ensured that the Blues had the lead they rightly deserved. An inch perfect long ball from Eugenson Lyngdoh saw Sunil Chhetri head home the first goal.
Mohammed Umair Levels The Scores With Two Minutes To Play
With the Blues looking to complete their first victory in the AFC Cup, a penalty was awarded with two minutes left on the clock. A handball from the ever reliable Curtis Osano saw the referee Aziz Asimov point to the spot. Despite guessing the right way, Mohammed Umair’s shot had enough power to get past Ralte. A crescendo of boos broke out from the famed West Block A, as others shouted ” manne ge hogu Maziya” ( A Kannada slang which roughly translates to “Go Home Maziya”).
Shankar Wins It For Bengaluru FC
All of Bengaluru was on the edge of its seat as the Uzbekistan referee added five minutes of injury time. With three minutes of stoppage time played, Bengaluru FC found themselves with a prime opportunity to get the winner, having secured a free kick on the edge of the penalty box.
” Lets go Johnson, Lets Go” became the chant as the Bengaluru players began assuming their set piece positions. A teasing ball in from Eugeneson saw a few Maziya players lose their footing and Shankar Sampingiraj score his first goal for the club.
The win, despite being slender, has almost erased the pain of the 4-1 loss to Mohun Bagan. The highlight of the game from a coach’s perspective will be Shankar’s goal and the fluidity of the Bengaluru FC attacking unit. However, as a fan, the most important thing is to see 12 and 13 year old kids leading the way for the older fans to get on their feet and sing the famed “Oh When The Blues Go Marching In”.