Bengaluru FC couldn’t make a valiant second-half show count as the I-League champions went down 0-2 to Hong Kong Premier League side Eastern AA at the Baining grounds, in Guangzhou, China, on Monday.
Bengaluru FC found themselves trailing inside a minute when, from a swift move, defender Kilima sent in an inch-perfect cross for Brazilian-born Reinaldo to head past ’keeper and new signing Lalthuammawia Ralte.
The early goal put Ashley Westwood’s team on the back foot as Eastern began seizing control. But just as Bengaluru were beginning to get their shape in order, Eastern struck through a second header, this time from another Brazilian Giovane, in the 15th minute.
Bengaluru FC’s best chance came in the 27th minute but Josh Walker’s well-taken freekick was palmed away by ’keeper Yapp Hung Fai. Westwood had to make an unplanned substitution when right-back Rino Anto had to limp off with what looked like a twisted ankle, making way for Vishal Kumar.
The second half, however, was a completely different tale as Bengaluru came at Eastern with renewed confidence and a plan. Westwood threw in Eugeneson Lyngdoh, Udanta Kumam and Karan Sawhney for Thoi Singh, Beikhokhei Beingaichho and Siam Hanghal and the Blues started passing the ball around a lot more. Bengaluru’s intent was made clear when CK Vineeth – who clocked in an amazing work-rate – had an attempt on target come off a defender. Only minutes later, Sean Rooney was sent clear by Walker and with no one but the ’keeper to beat, the striker ended up shooting straight at Fai. Bengaluru refused to step off the gas as Udanta slid one in from the right for Walker who struggled to latch on to what could have been the Blues’ breakthrough.
In the 73rd minute, the Eastern ’keeper had to pull off a double save, keeping out attempts from Udanta and Rooney in quick succession. Eastern managed to survive the onslaught and their only attempt on goal was a freekick toward the fag end of the game that came off the bar.
Bengaluru play the final match of their China tour against Chinese Super League side Guangzhou R&F FC on Thursday.