The defending champions ended the I-league journey on a high with a 3-0 victory over Derick Pereira’s Churchill Brothers. . . 

Albert Roca’s Bengaluru FC ended a moderate I-League season by their standards with a 3-0 win over lone Goan side Churchill Brothers. Goals from Daniel Lalhlimpuia, Udanta Singh and Mandar Rao Desai handed the Garden City team their 4th league win in as many games.

Bengaluru FC went with their second-string side for this game leaving out first team regulars Cameron Watson, Sunil Chhetri, John Johnson and Eugeneson Lyngdoh. Goalkeeper Lalthuammawia Ralte captained the side that saw the debut of defender Gursimrat Singh Gill. The U-22 international made his bow in the rout against DSK Shivajians which convinced Albert Roca that he was ready for a start.

Bengaluru FC vs Churchill Brothers (3-0) Full Highlights Hero I-League

Bengaluru went into this game on a 4-match winning streak. Roca set the team up in a highly attacking 4-3-3 with Udanta and Mandar supporting striker Daniel. Derrick Perreira outlined his intentions with a 5 man midfield to disrupt the play. Anthony Wolfe’s physical presence up front was to be supplemented by the wingers Anthony de Souza and Gabriel Fernandes.

The game got off to a whirlwind start as the home side were in the driving seat within the first 5 minutes. Debutant Gursimrat’s inch perfect cross found an unmarked Daniel who just had to add his boot to the cross to make it 1-0.

The Blues were playing with a freedom and incision that had been missing in the early part of the season. Udanta’s direct running was supported by Daniel’s runs into the box and Gursimrat’s marauding runs provided the overlap Udanta needed to function effectively.

However, Churchill, despite their muted showing in the league this season are not easy opponents. Anthony Wolfe’s brought Seriton’s cross under control and laid it off to Anthony De Souza whose shot was straight at Ralte’s legs.

Churchill were handed an opportunity for an equaliser when BFC custodian Ralte spilt a routine cross only to fall kindly to Wolfe who had an open net to score but somehow directed his header away from goal.  The visitors, despite their significantly lower possession numbers, were setup by the shrewd Derrick Perreira to hit the home side on the counter.

However, the home side were constantly knocking on the door of custodian Naveen Kumar. The lack of first team action for the players on the pitch as they looked assured in possession and delighted the crowd with a few deft touches and back heels. Gursimrat especially did not look like a player making his first ever start. He launched into tackles with determination and his excellent combination play with Udanta was something that Roca will no doubt keep an eye on.

Udanta, making his first start, after the win against Aizawl, never looked out of touch as his run outside the box found Daniel who tested Naveen Kumar. Alwyn George did not ease the pressure on the Churchill custodian with a shot of his own 5 minutes later.

On the other end, Wolfe was a thorn in the side of Sandesh Jhingan who was lucky not to be booked early on with his constant fouling of the Trinidad and Tobago striker. The frontman did not get the benefit of the referee on these occasions.

It didn’t make much of a difference as Udanta highlighted his importance to this Bengaluru side in the 35th minute when he ran onto a delicious lofted ball from Juanan to take it round the onrushing Churchill keeper to double the lead.

The Bengaluru goalkeeper Ralte was having a tough first half when he was all at sea during Anthony de Souza’s corner which was not dealt with properly and nearly saw Adil Khan reduce the deficit. The chance also saw a minor altercation between Sandesh Jhingan and Juanan.

The visitors made a change during the interval with midfielder Bektur making way for striker Ghanefo Kromah. Perreira shifted to a more direct 4-4-2 in an attempt to drag the Bengaluru centre-halves away from Wolfe. The substitute worked the home side immediately after being afforded too much space outside the Bengaluru box. The striker unleashed a shot that was parried away weakly by Ralte.  

The rest of the half saw the home side control possession and slow the pace of the game down. Roca brought in defensive changes with Keegan Perreira and local lad Shankar Sampingiraj replacing Alwyn George and Udanta Singh. It was an emotional moment for the Karnataka defender who had been out for a year with an injury and the crowd did not disappoint with a raucous reception.

Perreira responded by bringing on Pankaj Sona for Anthony de Souza to add more attacking impetus to the front line. It only opened up the visitors for a home side counter attack. This was precisely what happened as Mandar Rao Desai’s cross field ball in the 85th minute was pulled back by Salam Ranjan Singh back to the winger who took his time, and measured a perfect left-footed curling shot to hand the Blues an unassailable advantage.

The home side held on to their lead to end the season on a high as they look to take this late run of form into the AFC Cup.

 Man of the match: Mandar Rao Desai