A helpless Thangboi Singto watched his side go down to a resilient Bengaluru F.C in the 2014-15 football Federation Cup at the Tilak Maidan Stadium in Vasco, Goa. With the victory, the Blues regained the top spot in Group B. As for Shillong Lajong, their federation cup campaign is all but over with the Reds finding themselves at the bottom of the group without a point.
Westwood Looks To Rotate Squad
Bengaluru F.C’s manager Ashley Westwood made four changes to the side that featured in the goalless draw against Mohun Bagan, with Eugeneson Lyngdoh, C.K Vineeth, Chhuantea and Siam Hanghal all coming in.
— Bengaluru FC (@bengalurufc) January 2, 2015
In the absence of all his overseas players, Reds coach Thangboi Singto had no option but to stick to the same XI that started in the 3-1 loss to Pune F.C, with captain Aiborlang Khongjee deployed at the heart of defence and Kunzang Bhutia in between the sticks.
Shillong Lajong XI: Bhutia, Khongjee,Tamang, Nogrum, Ngaiate, Doungal, Lalfakzuala, Gurang, Lalrammuana, Kumar, Bipin.
— Bengaluru FC (@bengalurufc) January 2, 2015
First Half :
Both sides look to influence Proceedings
The first half kicked-off in a positive fashion, with both sides looking to get a stranglehold of the match in the first half. Initially, the midfield paring of Josh Walker and Siam Hanghal found it difficult to stamp their authority on the game. With Walker finding himself in advanced positions from time to time, Hanghal found himself in a quarterback role, a position relatively alien for the fans’ favourite. Despite a sizeable number of misplaced passes, Lajong were denied a crack at Bengaluru custodian Ralte courtesy of some old school and gritty defending by centre backs John Johnson and Curtis Osano.
A flurry Of corners but fewer chances
A flurry of corners and superior possession of the ball ensured that the Blues were able to maintain the pressure on their I League counterparts. However, despite the continual pressure, Westwood’s men were unable to put the ball past Kunzang Bhutia. Josh Walker’s set pieces failed to find their respective targets and instead Shillong Lajong found themselves on the break on many occasions. Once again, the defensive solidity of Bengaluru F.C came to the fore in the form of Johnson and Osano who succeeded in keeping the Reds at bay to go into the half time interval with neither side successful in breaking the deadlock.
Robin Singh scores to give Bengaluru the edge
An average first half for Bengaluru winger C.K Vineeth prompted Ashley Westwood to make a half time change, and a positive one at that. Robin Singh was introduced at the stroke of half time. His impact was instantaneous as his left footed pile-driver found its way past Bhutia, giving Bengaluru the much needed lead with five minutes of the second half gone. The big Bengaluru striker almost made it 2-0 barely two minutes later, with his shot saved by the impressive Shillong Lajong Custodian.
The next few minutes saw a stern dominance from the Blues, as Sunil Chhetri and Josh Walker came close to providing a two goal cushion to the one goal advantage. However, the best chance once again fell to Robin Singh, as his shot found the cross bar. Once again, the next few minutes were dominated by Bengaluru, with Aiborlang Khongjee and company on the ropes.
A nerve wracking second half for both sides
Unable to digest the fact that his side were barely hanging on, Singto made a significant change, bringing on striker Redeem Tlang. Likewise, Bengaluru too made their change, bringing on Beikhokhei Beingaichho for Sean Rooney. This change was particularly significant for Shillong Lajong, as a well constructed attack from the Red’s saw Seminlen Doungel saw his effort saved by Ralte. The close of play saw chances for both sides, with Shillong Lajong mostly looking to hit Bengaluru on the counter. Their failure to induce a good and decisive counter attack ensured that Westwood’s men went back to the top of the table with seven points.
The victory sees the Blues within touching distance of qualification to the semifinals. The hard fought victory against Shillong Lajong was perhaps what the doctor ordered, as the victory sees the Blues once again climb up to the top of the table. Josh Walker’s performance in particular was something special, and Westwood would definitely be hoping for more of the same from him, as they face second placed Pune F.C on the 5th of January.
Shillong Lajong’s third loss on the spin means that they are virtually out of contention for a spot in the semifinals. However, Thangboi Singto can take away several positives from his side’s performances and will definitely be looking for an improvement in the I League starting on the 17th of January. The Reds face Mohun Bagan and with both teams close to getting knocked out , they will be mostly playing for pride.