A John Johnson goal from what was to be the last chance of the game meant Bengaluru FC came away with all three points in a dominant show against Maziya Sports and Recreation Club in a Group E clash of the AFC Cup at the Maldives National Stadium in Male on Tuesday.
A humid afternoon saw BFC outplay their opponents, creating multiple chances without a goal to show for, only for their central defender to score in the dying moments to come away with a 1-0 result.
Four changes were made to the BFC side that took on Mohun Bagan in an I-League clash last weekend with skipper Sunil Chhetri, Eugeneson Lyngdoh, Lenny Rodrigues returning to the starting line-up while Salam Ranjan Singh replaced Nishu Kumar in defence.
The reigning I-League champions started well from the kick-off, with Udanta Singh’s early swipe sailing over the bar before another shot from the 21-year-old, this time set up by skipper Sunil Chhetri, went inches high.
Udanta was in the thick of things once again when, in the 17th minute, his shot from the edge of the penalty area was saved by Maziya goalkeeper Pavel Matiash. Defender Juanan then took a shot on the volley but it was wayward.
Maziya’s first chance of the half came when Mohammad Umair controlled a long diagonal only for his second touch to let him down, as Blues’ custodian Amrinder Singh advanced to collect without fuss.
Daniel Lalhlimpuia then combined with Chhetri to enter the Maziya area but the final pass was found wanting as Pavel collected. Maziya striker Imaaz Ahmed was at the end of the home side’s best chance of the half but Amrinder was equal to the shot from distance as both sides headed back into the tunnel with the scores unchanged.
BFC pressed high from the start of the second half in search of the opener and almost got it when Cameron Watson’s shot from an Udanta cross bounced off a Maziya defender only for Juanan to smash high on the rebound.
The visitors spent the first fifteen minutes attacking the opposition area with Lenny and Watson constantly breaking up play while Udanta wreaked havoc down the flank. Lalhlimpuia wriggled free of his marker on two occasions but failed to find the target as his shots fizzled wide.
Sensing the need for aerial presence in the box, BFC coach Albert Roca sent on Marjan Jugovic in place of Rodrigues with half an hour to play. But it was Lalhlimpuia, who was at the end of every BFC move. The striker’s best chance came in the 67th minute when, after a play that was built right up from the back, the skipper laid it off only for it to be shot wide.
Maziya retreated into their own half for most of the second period as BFC dominated possession and controlled play.
Nishu and Harmanjot Khabra were introduced for fresh legs down the flanks and it was the former who was involved as the Blues came closest to breaking the deadlock.
Nishu’s low cross from a narrow angle after a darting run into the box could not be tapped home by Udanta. Chhetri then agonizingly put away a chance from a brilliant one-two with Jugovic.
For all their dominance throughout the game, it was the final chance of the game that saw Bengaluru nick the points.
A long punt forward from a free-kick taken by Amrinder was spilled by Matiash who should have punched instead of attempting to collect. The ball fell to Jugovic who hooked the ball towards the goal and Johnson leapt high to divert the ball in with his foot.