Thursday, October 12, 2017

Bengaluru FC ‘B’ ready for inaugural season

Bengaluru FC Media

Bengaluru FC announced a 28-member squad which will be part of the club’s first ever reserve side, known as Bengaluru FC ‘B’, for the 2017-18 season.

The squad, led by AFC Pro-License holder Naushad Moosa, is formed with a view of bridging the gap between the BFC Academy and the first team. Keeping the player pathway as the focal point of the Blues’ newest project, the management is committed on providing the best facilities at a professional level for up and coming Indian talent and has signed several young players for the season.

While two graduates, Leon Augustine and Prashanth Kalinga, from the inaugural batch of BFC’s Residential Academy in Bellary have been drafted into the squad, seven exciting players from the India U-19 set-up have also been signed. These youngsters, along with six other BFC Academy players who are part of BFC ‘B’, are eligible to represent the Blues in the U18 I-League.

Meanwhile, five players from the squad - Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, Daniel Lalhlimpuia, Robinson Khumukcham, Prashanth Kalinga and Leon Augustine - are part of the Blues squad for the ongoing AFC Cup 2017.

Club CTO Mandar Tamhane said, “When we started the BFC Residential academy, we also had plans for BFC ‘B’. With competitive action at the national stage only available till the Under-18 level, it’s very crucial for youngsters graduating out of the academy to get competitive action. At 18, not all players are ready for the intense demands of the first team, and so with the ‘B’ side we are trying to bridge that gap. It’s no different than our first team, and along with a few graduates from our academy, we have scouted for some talented young players from all over the country who do have the potential to progress through to our first team.”

Head Coach Naushad Moosa said, “It is very important to have a reserve side in a club. With Bengaluru FC ‘B’, there’s a platform for youngsters to improve their game while rubbing shoulders with the established stars and getting a ton of competitive action at the same time. We know this season is going to be a challenge for us, but the management has provided with a great structure.”

The squad, formed predominantly with Under-23 players, has been training over the last few weeks at the Bangalore Football Stadium, and will be playing in the 2nd Division League, conducted by the All India Football Federation, apart from the upcoming BDFA Bengaluru Super Division, and other all-India level tournaments.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

India Qualify for AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 thrashing Macau 4-1

AIFF Media

The Senior Indian National team who were already on track for a qualification to the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 felt it best to settle matters on Wednesday evening itself, that too with two more matches left.

Sunil Chhetri led India beat Macau 4-1 to register their fourth successive win in as many matches (Group A) at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium in Bengaluru to script India’s 2nd qualification to the AFC Asian Cup in last 8 years, and 4th overall.

India had last qualified to the AFC Asian Cup in Doha in 2011. The winners led 1-1 at the interval.

The first goal came in the 28th minute. Off a build-up down the left, Rowllin Borges after receiving it from Jeje Lalpekhlua preferred to turn and his right-footer hit rival captain Cheang Cheng and went in.

The second goal came as a relief for most of the fans, and it came in the 60th minute. The triangle of Jeje Lalpekhlua, Balwant Singh and Sunil Chhetri did the trick. Jeje essayed it to Balwant in vacant space who sped past his marker and laid it for Chhetri at the other end to tap it in.

The path to the qualification to Asian Cup UAE 2019 became all the broader when in the 70th minute a Halicharan shot deflected off a defender and rolled over the head of Man Fai. Jeje Lalpekhlua added more gloss to the scoreline in added extra time (90+2') to score India's fourth goal and complete mission Macau. 

On a night where it rained almost all throughout, India pressed the pedal from right from the kick-off. A corner was earned in the first minute itself and thereafter there were a barrage of attacks.

In the 20th minute, Lao Pak Kin was yellow carded for pulling Sunil Chhetri off the ball, but Chhetri’s free-kick sailed over. The very next minute, Pritam Kotal’s centre bounced of rival Goalkeeper Ho Man Fai’s hands but he managed to hold on in the second attempt.

Borges’ put India in the lead in the 28th minute but it didn’t last long – Nicholas Mario sneaking in between the defenders to head it in nine minutes later. The drizzle had stopped by then and both teams headed to the interval at 1-1.

Changing over, Balwant Singh came in for Jackichand Singh.

Even as India very much like the first half seized the initiative, it was not until the 55th minute that the Blue Tigers had a shy at the goal. But an acrobatic Ho Man Fai kept off Sandesh Jhingan’s header off a Eugeneson Lyngdoh corner.

Chhetri, as he is wont to do, scored his 55th International goal in the 60th minute and two minutes later, Balwant the feeder could have sealed it but his placement just went wide after an onrushing Man Fai had managed to narrow down the angle.

Constantine made his second change in the 65th minute – Md Rafique coming in for Borges.

The third goal for India came in the 70th minute and with some 20 minutes remaining the fate seemed to have been more or less sealed.

The third substitution was made in the 77th minute - Salam Ranjan Singh replacing Anas Edathodika and making his debut for the Indian National Team in the process. In the 86th minute, Jeje almost gave the Macau defence a scare when he shot at half turn after Sunil Chhetri found him near the box. The shot flew inches wide of the goal as Macau survived to tell the tale. Three minutes later, Balwant Singh put a goal on Jeje's plate but Jeje, a little too eager was caught offside with only the net to find after he rounded off the goalkeeper. 

However, it was written in the stars for Jeje Lalpekhlua as the Mizo striker found the net in the dying embers of the match, tapping in a Sunil Chhetri pass to make the score line read 4-1. The full-time score line read 4-1 as India marched onto qualification for the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019. 

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

India take on Macau in AFC Asian Cup qualifiers tomorrow

AIFF Media

"We can't let the opportunity slip. We have to win tomorrow's game and there's no alternative from working harder and harder,” Captain Marvel Sunil Chhetri said in the pre-match press conference before taking on Macau in the fourth match of the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 Qualifiers at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium in Bengaluru tomorrow (October 11, 2017).

"We are going through a good run but we can't afford to take tomorrow’s game lightly. We have to get it going and make it count. We need three points,” Chhetri stated.

Coach Stephen Constantine also preferred to speak in the same tone referring to the match against Macau as a “crucial one.”

"We’re very close to qualifying for the AFC Asian Cup but we're still not there. We can't think about anything but getting a positive result. We respect every opponent and our philosophy won’t change against Macau too,” Constantine stated.

"We have refurbished the team. The average age of the National Team is around 24. The World Cup qualification stage was a learning curve for us and now we're just one breath away from the AFC Asian Cup. That's what we have achieved and I believe, we have built a team for next 4-5 years at least,” Stephen Constantine maintained.

On being asked what Sunil Chhetri undergoes to keep the fitness level at par with the younger bunch of players, Chhetri quipped: "I don’t do anything special, trust me. Playing for my country is the biggest motivation for me and it keeps driving me always. I won't let anyone take my place just for the sake of it. I will keep working hard day in and day out and fight for my place in the team."

In the away fixture the men in Blue had to toil really hard to breach the resilient Macau defence until Balwant Singh hit the target twice. Chhetri referred to that and stated that 'Macau is not to be taken lightly anytime.’

"We have worked on our strategies. Yes, we struggled there. We had to work hard to penetrate them. In no way, we can take them lightly. We did work on our mistakes and I hope we'll implement them on the pitch tomorrow."

"The AFC Asian Cup is massive. It's the biggest tournament which an Asian team can play. But, as gaffer said, it’s not done yet. In my playing career of 14 years, I have been in this situation before. We are taking the game with the same philosophy. Now, our only focus is to qualify. Once we do, we will surely cherish the memory."

Meanwhile, Stephen Constantine informed that he has no injury worries and his full squad is ready to give it a shot tomorrow.

Macau Head coach Chan Hiu Ming rated the Stephen Constantine-coached side very highly at the pre-match press conference. "India are the better team undoubtedly. We're trying to close the gaps. They have quite a few great players, like 11 (Sunil Chhetri) and others. We'll give our best and it's going to be a great experience for my boys."

The match is scheduled to kick-off at 7.30pm.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Zeven India Football Tour - F5WC World Final India qualifiers kicks off in Bangalore

Last Saturday witnessed the official kick-off of Zeven India Football Tour today. The India Football Tour is the official Indian qualifiers tournament for F5WC world finals. F5WC is the world's largest amateur 5-a-side football tournament. This is an annual event which will be held in Shanghai, China. 

This is the second edition of the India Football Tour organized by Addrush Sports, a sports management company specializing in events and technology and Zeven, a sportswear brand, began with the unveiling of the official jersey, the match trophy. 

The Zeven-India Football Tour is an amateur football tournament played on a small, 5-a-side field with a few differences from the regular game - no offside, kick-ins instead of throw-ins, and so on. 

The India Football Tour will be conducted in 6 cities that include Bengaluru, Mumbai, Delhi, Hyderabad, Kolkata and Kochi to select the best team that will represent India internationally. The winners of each city qualifiers will travel to Bengaluru to compete at the National Finals. 

Later in the event, an exhibition football match was played between a team of sports journalists and the team of Humble Politician Nograj, political satire film in Kannada language, which will hit cinemas shortly. Danish Sait, Hemanth Rao and many other celebrities played the game. 

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Bengaluru move to AFC Inter-Zone Final

Bengaluru FC Media 

Bengaluru FC kept their calm to hold on to a three-goal lead from the first leg to seal an aggregate win (3-0) after a goalless draw against 4.25 SC, at the May Day Stadium, in Pyongyang, on Wednesday. The result secures a place for the Blues in the Inter-zone final of the 2017 AFC Cup, where they are set to face Tajik side FC Istiklol in a two-legged affair. 

While the game lacked goals, it was custodian Gurpreet Singh Sandhu who impressed with some brilliant work under the bar for the Blues. The Punjabi-lad pulled off a crucial second half penalty save, as Albert Roca’s side extended their clean-sheet streak to three games in the competition, the longest in four years.

Going into the second leg, Roca opted to field an unchanged XI from the first leg with skipper Sunil Chhetri, Antonio Dovale and Udanta Singh leading the front line while Spaniard Dimas Delgado marshalled midfield.

The game, played on the artificial turf of the massive May Day Stadium, was a contrast to the first leg, where the Blues had dominated proceedings for majority of the night. In Pyongyang, Bengaluru were edged out in terms of possession and chances, but made up for with a stubborn defense as Gurpreet, Juanan Gonzalez, Rahul Bheke, Harmanjot Khabra and Nishu Kumar, who was later replaced by Subhasish Bose kept the 4.25 SC attack at bay.   

While the first half saw Bengaluru create a few half chances, most notably through Toni Dovale, the hosts managed to control the game. With a sizeable turnout egging for the home side to attack, the Blues did well to arrive at the break with the scores unchanged.

Bengaluru were forced to sit deep and defend in the second half as tournament top-scorer Kim Yu Song almost gave 4.25 SC the lead in the 57th minute with a header, but it was Gurpreet once again who denied the striker. As the game progressed, Hwang Yong Song’s side continued to attack and substitute An Il-Bom who came on in the 61st minute, forced the Blues custodian into another brilliant diving save in the 70th.

The hosts continued to mount persistent attacks on the Blues' back-line, passing the ball well while switching play efficiently to keep the pressure on. For Bengaluru, it was Man-of-the-Match Gurpreet who did well to command his defenders and the rest of the team, who dropped deep to help thwart the Korean side’s attack.

Into the final quarter of the game, 4.25 had the best chance to break the deadlock as Rahul Bheke brought down Bom inside the box in the 77th minute, prompting referee Wang Di to point to the spot. However, Gurpreet dived to his right denying midfielder Ri Hyong Jin's effort from 12 yards.

The pressure culminated into another chance in the dying moments of the game, as midfielder Won Song hit the crossbar with an effort from 20-yards out but it wasn't to be for the home side.

"They dominated majority of the game and deserved to win. But at the same time, we defended very well as a team and managed to hold on to our lead from the first leg. We are happy to have made it through and now look to get back to Bengaluru and prepare for the big game against FC Istiklol," Roca said, speaking at the post-match press conference.

For their part, the Blues had to overcome numerous hurdles to get through - some on field, some off of it. While their travel plans were initially delayed due to Foundation Day Celebrations in DPR Korea, part of the luggage went missing in transit when they finally made it through to Pyongyang on Monday. With 15 bags of kits and equipment arriving just a day before the game, the Blues had to train in makeshift gear on the eve of the clash.

Up next in the Inter-zone final for Bengaluru FC will be Dushanbe-based Tajikistan side FC Istiklol who overcame Philippines’ Ceres Negros FC 5-1 (agg.) in the other two-legged Inter-zone semifinal. The first leg will be played away on September 27th, while the return leg at the Kanteerava Stadium is scheduled for October 18th.