Bengaluru FC began the rebuild of their season under interim coach Naushad Moosa with a 1-0 defeat to East Bengal, at the JN Stadium in Fatorda, on Saturday. Matti Steinmann’s goal in the 20th minute was the difference between the two sides, even as Bengaluru – who fielded a number of youngsters – picked things up with a spirited second-half showing but couldn’t make it count in the final third.
The loss kept Bengaluru FC in sixth position with 12 points and Moosa now has his work cut out when the Blues travel to take on NorthEast United in three days’ time.
Erik Paartalu returned to the team after serving a suspension while Harmanjot Khabra sat out after picking up one. Parag Shrivas and Ajith Kumar were handed their first starts of the season while Cleiton Silva started as the striker, with Kristian Opseth and Deshorn Brown moving to the bench. In the opposite dugout, Jacques Maghoma replaced Aaron Holloway in the starting eleven in what was the only change to Robbie Fowler’s side.
It took less than one minute for the Blues to register their first shot on target, with the skipper testing Debjit Majumder with a chip over the East Bengal defence. Despite Bengaluru pressing hard and chasing second balls early on, it was the visitors who made the breakthrough in the 20th minute. Narayan Das got to the end of Ankit Mukherjee’s cross and delivered a low pass into the area that was turned into the net by Matti Steinmann with the outside of his boot to make it 1-0 to East Bengal.
The Blues pushed forward for an equalizer and almost found one when, in the 33rd minute, Paartalu played a give-and-go with Cleiton outside the box but his rasping drive was parried away by Debjit. Chhetri got to rebound but his cross was blocked.
Bengaluru’s final chance of the first half came three minutes before the break. Parag’s looped cross was met by Chhetri near the far post but his header had Scott Neville in the way as East Bengal kept their lead going into the dressing room.
Bengaluru made changes at the break as Parag and Udanta made way for Opseth and Pratik Chaudhari. Just three minutes after the restart, the Norwegian was in the thick of things as his lay off for Chhetri saw the skipper unleash a strike that was sneaking into the top corner before Debjit palmed it away.
Both players were back in action just past the hour mark as Chhetri went past his marker with a drop of the shoulder and drilled a fierce strike that the East Bengal ’keeper did well to block.
The visiting side’s first big chance of the second half came just after the cooling break. Namgyal Bhutia, coming on for his debut, misplaced a pass that Bright Enobakhare pounced on and Gurpreet Singh Sandhu had to be at full stretch to make the save.
Bengaluru’s final shot of the game, off Paartalu’s boot deep into stoppage time, sailed well over the bar as East Bengal took three points from the Fatorda.
Bengaluru are back in action on January 12 when they take on NorthEast United FC at the Tilak Maidan.