By Debayan Mukherjee,
AIFF Media Team
Bengaluru FC 1 (Robin Singh – 50th)
Shillong Lajong 0
VASCO: Bengaluru FC spurned a hatful but had substitute Robin Singh to thank for his second half strike that knocked an all-Indian Shillong Lajong outfit out of the Hero Federation Cup in a Group B tie here at the Tilak Maidan on Friday (January 2, 2015).
The India and BFC No 9 scored five minutes after coming on at halftime, receiving a pass from captain Sunil Chhetri in the centre of the pitch and making space for himself to slot home albeit with the help of a slight defection off the inside back post.
The win helps BFC inch closer to a semifinal berth while Lajong will now complete the formalities in the next two matches.
The I-League champions could have won by a much bigger margin had English stopper-back John Johnson’s header and Robin Singh thunderbolt volley not come off the crosspiece either side of the winner.
Lajong had their chances too but India U-222 striekr Seminlen Doungel was guilty of not putting to bed two good second-half opportunities and make their rivals pay for their misses in the process.
Despite enjoying the lion’s share of the possession, a goal seemed to stay elusive for the I-League champions.
Johnson came closest to breaking the deadlock but the bar came in between his header and the back of the net off former England U-20 captain Joshua Walker’s inviting corner.
Coach Ashley Westwood – back on the touchline after serving a four-match from last season – tinkered with his starting XI making four changes from the last game against Mohun Bagan which ended goalless.
Two of them shone in the first half. CK Vineeth on the right wing and Laithuanmanwai at left-back impressed with the crosses and shuttling runs up and down the channel respectively.
Lajong had pace with the likes of Rupert Nongrum and Seminlen Doungel linking up well but the alacrity of Laithuanmanwai, popularly called Chhuantea, was enough to thwart them every time they tried to exploit the left flank.
Vineeth on his part sent in two good-looking crosses from the right but was twice denied by goalkeeper Kunjang Bhutia and his overcooked kick respectively.
Lajong – already staring down the barrel after two defeats in two matches – found it hard to match their rivals’ skills and passing as the Blues of India bossed the half although without fruit.
They just needed to smell blood and that’s what halftime substitute Robin brought.
Captain Chhetri picked out his India teammate in the centre of the pitch with the tall striker unleashing a powerful strike which took the inside of the post to roll in.
One goal up, finally, BFC ran riot. But as luck would have it, they were denied a second cushion more often than not.
The closest was when soon after he scored, Robin let loose a thunderous volley that cannoned off the bar after the keeper had put the faintest of touches on the ball for it to go out for a corner.
From the resultant flag kick, Siam Hanghal shot just over from 30 yards after the ball was pinged out by the busy Lajong defense.
Robin failed to capitalise once more off a Sunil centre, wrong-timing his volley from close.
Lajong almost made the most of BFC’s profligacy when first Rupert Nongrum’s cross was not met by anyone inside the box, and then Doungel missed by a whisker and then shot straight at Laithuanmanwai Ralte from a good position.
Picture courtesy: Bengaluru FC Media
Posted on : Friday January 02, 2015