Bengaluru FC dug deep to play out a 1-1 draw with Mohun Bagan AC, a result that was enough for Albert Roca’s men to set up a semifinal clash with I-League champions Aizawl FC in the Federation Cup, in Cuttack, on Friday. Alwyn George’s opener in the 11th minute meant the Blues had a lead that would have taken them atop Group B but for Sony Norde’s equalizer which meant the Blues finish in second place behind the Mariners.
Earlier, a late goal from Shillong Lajong’s Samuel Lalmuanpuia inflicted a 3-2 loss on DSK Shivajians. The result meant that a point would take Roca’s men through to the semifinals.
Starting the game with intent given what was at stake, Bengaluru shot into the lead in the 11th minute when Alwyn, picked ahead of Udanta on the right, scored with a clinical left-foot finish, leaving Debjit Majumder no chance whatsoever. The Blues could have doubled their lead only minutes later but skipper Sunil Chhetri saw his attempt bounce off the crossbar from a corner.
Bagan got on level terms soon after the restart when Norde, picked out Kean Lewis, bet one man and fired low past Amrinder’s left to make it 1-1 in the 50th minute. Bengaluru soon suffered a minor blip when Chhetri, visibly struggling with a limp, made way for Malsawmzuala.
Norde’s moment of individual brilliance apart, Bengaluru played like a team with a plan that wouldn’t give an inch. Doungel’s impressive work rate as striker allowed the wings more freedom. In defence, John Johnson and Juanan Gonzalez were winning every aerial duel while Jhingan, Ranjan and Harmanjot Khabra were winning tackles and helping the midfield to build up play.
The Blues had a half chance in the 87th minute when Lenny’s ambitious punt ahead bounced over a Bagan head and fell in the path of Doungel’s run. But in looking to control the ball and set himself up for the finish, the Bengaluru striker was robbed in time by Eduardo.
Earlier, Roca named a starting XI with a fair number of changes from the team that played the first two games. Len Doungel was handed a start in attack while Alwyn got the nod ahead of Udanta Singh. Amrinder Singh, who sat out against Lajong and DSK, was at the helm of things in goal ahead of Lalthuammawia Ralte. Meanwhile in defence, Salam Ranjan started in place of Nishu Kumar with Sandesh Jhingan manning duties on the left. Lenny Rodrigues took the place of a suspended Eugeneson Lyngdoh in midfield.
Bengaluru’s semifinal clash against Aizawl FC will take place at the Barabati Stadium, on Sunday, at 16.00 IST.