Blues dent Aizawl’s totle bid ahead of Kolkata Derby…

Bengaluru FC left it late in the game to pull off a morale boosting home win when Marjan Jugovic’s header was the difference in a tight game between the Blues and table toppers Aizawl FC.

Both teams had different reasons to win the game. Bengaluru had only pride to play for in the I-League while Aizawl needed a positive result to distance themselves from the challenge of Mohun Bagan and East Bengal. Albert Roca was forced into a defensive change with Sandesh Jhingan’s suspension with Nishu Kumar playing at right back with Juanan moving to the left full back position. Salam Ranjan Singh partnered John Johnson in defence. Daniel continued to lead the line with the creative trio of Udanta Singh, Sunil Chhetri and Eugeneson Lyngdoh to supply him.

Khalid Jamil opted for a 4-4-2 with Kamo Stephene and Alfred Jaryan as the furthermost players with Jayesh Rane and Brandon to provide the width.

Hostility was its highest towards visiting coach Khalid Jamil who did not endear himself to the West Block blues during his time with Mumbai FC. However, it was Jamil whose side unexpectedly lead the I-League points table ahead of their more illustrious counterparts.

The game saw both teams sizing each other up on a hot Sunday afternoon at the Garden City. However, it was the Blues who slowly but steadily picked up the pack with Udanta and Chhetri proving to be menacing on the flanks. Juanan made a driving run into the box and cut back for an onrushing Lenny, but saw the pass hacked clear by Aizawl defender Kingsley.

The home side were forced into an early change with winger Udanta Singh being withdrawn for Alwyn George after he picked up a knock after being fouled by Kingsley. Watson’s resulting free kick was chipped into the box for Juanan to connect sweetly on the volley but saw his effort being saved.

Roca’s men continued in a positive fashion stringing passes confidently and quickly. Chhetri wriggled free of his marker to tee off Daniel who shimmied past one defender and unleashed a ferocious volley which was saved by Aizawl keeper Albino Gomes.

Tempers flared on the touchline when Jamil confronted Sunil Chhetri when the latter escaped without a foul being awarded for his pull back. Brandon on the other hand had Nishu Kumar’s number as his pace and dribbling skills were a thorn on the side of the full back who was played out of his natural position.

Aizawl fashioned two good chances of their own when Ashutosh Mehta’s shot beat Amrinder but unluckily saw the shot cannon off Amrinder’s post. The danger however was not clear as Mumbai FC old boy Jayesh Rane’s curling shot fizzed past Amrinder’s left hand post.

The second half started on a tepid note as both teams opted for a slow tempo to the game. Bengaluru’s play was characterized by misplaced passes and predictable pattern of play while Aizawl opted to hit their opponents on the counter.

Highlights: Bengaluru FC 1-0 Aizawl FC 

Just before the hour mark, Aizawl upped the tempo when they stole the ball in midfield and laid it to Alfred Jaryan who waltzed past the Bengaluru midfield and tested Amrinder with a crisp shot. Roca had seen enough and hauled off Eugeneson for the physical threat of Marjan Jugovic.

The home team were up in arms when Johnson was brought down in the box from a Cameron Watson free kick, but the referee waved play on. The tackles started flying in post this with both teams upping the intensity of the game. Jugovic in particular was nearly sent off when his stray boot caught Kingsley in the face.

Despite the home team’s dominance in possession, Aizawl looked like the team that was more likely to test the keeper. Mahmoud Alamna, who went about orchestrating play with minimal fuss, found space in the 73rd minute and decided to take on the shot himself, but saw his effort just wide of the post.

Jaryan returned to haunt the Blues yet again as his powerful strike from outside the box was saved well by Amrinder. On the other end, Jugovic was struggling to link up with Chhetri and Alwyn which was frustrating for both the coach and fans alike. Chhetri seemed to be waging a lone battle up front as he found space in the last 10 minutes, but his shot was well wide of Albino’s post.

Chhetri was at it again when he was part of a neat one-two with Juanan but his cross was easily held by Albino. The Blues finally decided to go for broke as Watson’s free kick was delivered into the Aizawl area with pace, but Jugovic’s diving header was just shy of the goal frame.

The Serb was not to be denied late into stoppage time when Sunil Chhetri’s assist found the giant striker who put it past Albino Gomes to give the Blues their first home win in the I-League since they thrashed Mumbai FC.

 Man of the Match: Jayesh Rane