Bengaluru FC‘s AFC Cup dreams went up in smoke as they played out a goalless game against Bangladeshi heavyweights Bashundhara Kings. The goal remained elusive for the Blues despite a late onslaught by Sunil Chhetri and co.
Bengaluru FC had history on their side when they lined up at the National Stadium at the Maldives, having beaten Bangladeshi opposition every time they met at an AFC competition.
Marco Pezzaiuoli made quite a few changes to his eleven – Parag Shrivas took Sarthak Golui’s spot and Danish Farooq replaced Ajay Chhetri in the middle. Upfront, young sensation, and last season’s I-league topscorer Bidyashagar Singh was given the nod ahead of the more experienced Udanta Singh. Bashundhara’s Óscar Bruzón went with an unchanged line-up.
The game got off to a frantic start as Bengaluru FC made their intentions clear with a flurry of attacks. Jayesh Rane’s shot was blocked by the Bashundhara skipper Topu Barman in the 5th minute and Bidyashagar’s rebound flashed wide.
However, the intensity of the game quickly dipped with both sides playing the ball around the back safely. Danish Farooq and Suresh Wangjam played some intricate passes in the middle of the park, keeping the Bashundhara defense on their toes.
The Bangladeshi outfit’s first real chance came in the 20th minute when Jonathan Fernandes played a silky through ball to Robson Robinho on the left flank. The Fluminese loanee comfortably dribbled past Alan Costa but was brought down by Musavu-King, culminating in a yellow card for the Gabonese.
The resulting freekick, albeit from a favorable position was blasted straight into the blue wall by Robinho. In the 33rd minute, Fernandes’ long-range effort was thwarted to safety by Gurpreet Singh Sandhu.
Pezzaiuoli substituted Parag with Sarthak Golui right before the break. Similar slow and sloppy football continued at the start of the second half, with both teams losing and gaining possession frequently in midfield, as Sunil Chhetri cut a lonely figure on one side of the pitch.
Chaos erupted in the 55th minute. Robinho combined beautifully with Biplo and found himself with space inside the box. Shrugging off Bidyashagar, the Brazilian rifled his shot at the bottom corner but was denied by Gurpreet’s quick feet. The ball bobbled up in the air with Jayesh Rane’s acrobatic goal-line clearance preventing it from looping into the net. Gurpreet had to swat the ball away yet again to safety.
Bengaluru FC finally changed gears after the 70th minute, with the likes of Leon Augustine and Jayesh Rane carrying the ball forward and playing dangerous balls into the box. The closest Bengaluru FC came to scoring was when Alan Costa met Cleiton Silva’s corner with a powerful header. The ball bumped off the ground, hit the crossbar, and bounced on the goal-line before being collected by Anisur Rahman.
Cleiton Silva found space and pulled the trigger in the 83rd minute, forcing Anisur into yet another save. Chhetri picked up the rebound and set up Jayesh Rane who’s shot was subsequently blocked. The Blues registered more shots in their relentless waves of attack but to no avail.
Bengaluru FC’s poor run of form continues after an underwhelming season at the Indian Super League where they finished 7th, their lowest in the competition since their inclusion in 2017.
Pezzaiuoli’s men play Maziya on 24th August, in a bid to end their AFC Cup campaign on a positive note by beating the Maldivian side. Bashundhara Kings take on ATK Mohun Bagan with knockout qualification still within their grasp, earlier the same day.
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