Composure in the second half and a goal in the first by Curtis Osano (26th minute) gave Bengaluru FC their second win in as many games as the Blues beat promoted side Aizawl FC 1-0 in an I-League encounter at a packed and picturesque Rajiv Gandhi Stadium, in Aizawl, on Saturday.
Ashley Westwood made just one change to the starting XI that beat Salgaocar FC the week before, bringing in Udanta Singh for Malsawmzuala. And the nippy winger did enough to show what he’s capable of bringing to the table. Darting off on runs that the Aizawl defence had a tough time dealing with, Udanta earned the Blues a free-kick in the 26th minute – one that led to Bengaluru’s opener.
With Eugeneson Lyngdoh standing over the ball, a quick change in decision saw Keegan Pereira swing in the take instead when Osano capitalized on a fumble by former Blues ’keeper Soram Poirei, to stab home in the muddle and give Bengaluru a much needed lead.
In an opening exchange where neither of the sides managed to stitch anything meaningful and the football was everything but pleasing to the eye, local boy Lalthuammawia Ralte pulled off the save of the game when he flung himself and got his fingertips to a dangerous shot from David Lalrinmuana that was heading for goal.
The Blues needed a little bit of luck when, in the 33rd minute, an Aizawl attack ended up bouncing off the post and to safety as Bengaluru tried to wrest control of the game.
Westwood tweaked the formation a bit and introduced another local boy in Malsawmzuala who came on for Udanta at the start of the second half, in a bid to seize more control and enjoy the kind of possession that the Blues are otherwise used to.
Aizawl, playing a historic first home game in their I-League journey, were always going to come out hard, wanting to make the occasion memorable. But it was the Bengaluru squad’s experience that put a spanner in AFC’s works with John Johnson and Osano making all the right interceptions and coming out winners in every aerial duel.
With 10 minutes left to play for, CK Vineeth had the best chance to close the game after being set up by Kim’s header only to inexplicably shoot wide from five yards out. Aizawl were keen to make the lifeline count and battled hard for a point but a gritty and composed show from Westwood’s boys denied the home side the fairytale ending they were chasing from the start.
Bengaluru next play at home at the Kanteerava Stadium when they take on Shillong Lajong FC on January 24.