A resolute Bengaluru FC moved to second place on the I-League table after headers from both Singhs – Robin and Thoi – gave the Blues a 2-0 win against Shillong Lajong FC at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium, in Bengaluru, on Saturday. Down to ten men for a half and a little more after Curtis Osano saw a straight red in the 41st minute, Bengaluru made light of the disadvantage, even scoring against the run of play as the Blues notched their third win on the trot.
Without regular wingbacks Rino Anto and Lalchhuanmawia who picked up niggles during training, Ashley Westwood handed starts to young Shankar Sampingiraj and Keegan Pereira as Bengaluru got close to scoring inside the minute mark.
The goal did come in the 16th minute when Shankar justified the gaffer’s decision to start him, floating an inch-perfect cross that Robin nodded home with command. Lajong had the odd chance or two but not ones to ruffle feathers in the Bengaluru defence. The hosts, however, suffered a blow when referee Pranjal Bannerjee flashed what seemed to be an unwarranted red card on Osano. While the defender did bring down Cornell Glenn, whether it demanded a red was debatable.
But while the numbers should have pegged Bengaluru FC back, the Blues weren’t having any of it. With a minute to the half-time whistle, Chhetri ran down the left, took out two defenders and shot from the narrowest of angles only to see it come off the far post.
Westwood brought on NS Manju for Beikhokhei Beingaichho at the start of the second half while Lajong, sensing an opportunity, introduced striker Uilliams Souza for Durga Boro. The visitors piled on a flurry of attacks within ten minutes of the restart but it was Bengaluru who got the goal. Having been in some special scoring form, Eugeneson Lyngdoh turned provider this time sending in a cross that Thoi Singh flicked home with a touch of class.
Westwood then brought on Vishal Kumar and CK Vineeth for Chhetri and Robin as Bengaluru kept their composure to notch a win and equally importantly a third straight clean sheet. “This has been one of our best performances this season on so many fronts. Even with a man down we showed hunger for a second goal,” said Westwood post the victory.