Saturday, May 20, 2017

Stage set for Bengaluru - Mohun Bagan battle at Barabati

AIFF Media 
Bengaluru FC  Media

Three weeks on the road, a season-ending injury to their talismanic captain and a last gasp penalty save to send them to the summit clash later, Bengaluru FC will look to bring home a title they won in 2015 when they take on rivals Mohun Bagan in a Federation Cup final scripted for the gallery, at the Barabati Stadium, in Cuttack, on Sunday.

The fixture marks the sixth meeting between the two rivals this season and could well be the most important one given the winners bag a spot in next season’s AFC Cup. “Sunday will be our second cup final in less than a year and it’s something we are proud to be part of. The team has shown immense character to make it to this stage and we are ready to give it one final push. I would say Bagan are the favourites with some big names on their roster and the availability of all four foreigners for this fixture. We have no problem being the underdogs,” said Roca while addressing the press on the eve of the game.

In what will be a vital miss for the Blues, midfielder Cameron Watson whose penalty sent Roca’s men to the final, won’t have any part to play in the big clash owing to a suspension. “Cameron has been an important player for us all season and his experience will be missed in the midfield. But like I’ve said before, we have enough quality on this squad and ability has never been a worry for me. Everyone on the squad knows what is at stake and I’m expecting them bring their best to the final.”

In Mohun Bagan, Bengaluru will be up against arguably one of the strongest strike forces in the country and the battle between a John Johnson-led defence and Darryl Duffy, Sony Norde and Balwant Singh will be key to how the final unfolds. “We back ourselves in defence as much as we do in attack and we’re all relishing the prospect of this clash. It’s been a tough three weeks on the road but it now all comes down to this one game and we will be giving it everything,” said Johnson who will, in all likelihood, pull on the captain’s armband.

Bengaluru’s road to the final wasn’t as smooth as Roca would have liked it to be but the Spaniard hopes his side finish things off on a high. The Blues beat Shillong Lajong 3-2 in the league-phase opener before suffering a shock 2-0 defeat to DSK Shivajians. Bengaluru then managed a 1-1 draw with Bagan which was enough to set up a semifinal clash against League champions Aizawl FC. Watson’s early penalty seemed enough to get the job done before Aizawl were awarded a penalty in the last minute of added time. But Amrinder Singh guessed correctly to keep the take out and hand Bengaluru a shot at the title. 

“We’ve made it a little more difficult for ourselves than we would have liked to but that’s how football can be sometimes. What’s important is we showed character and tomorrow will be another test of it,” said Roca.

Bagan, in comparison, had it relatively easier, beating DSK 4-0, Lajong 3-2 and then handing arch rivals East Bengal a 2-0 defeat in the semifinal.  

The game kicks off at 7 pm and will be beamed live on the Ten 2 network.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Historic win for U-17 team as they defeat Italy

In a historic moment for Indian Football, for the first time, the Indian U-17 World Cup Squad defeated the U-17 Youth Team of Italy who have won the FIFA World Cup four times 2-0, in Arizo, Italy today (May 19, 2017). The win epitomizes the grit and determination of the Indian Colts who have been grinding together since February 2013 in Goa.                         

All India Football Federation, the governing body of Indian Football has been providing rigorous exposure trips to the U17 World Cup Squad for the last couple of years, all in an effort to field a competitive Team for the FIFA U-17 World Cup, which is slated to kick-off later this year.

Strikes by Abhijit Sarkar (31’) and Rahul Praveen (80’) led the Indian U-17 World Cup Team to a massive win over the ‘Azzuri’ in a match largely dominated by the Indian Colts in terms of possession and chances created.

The Colts got off the blocks in Italy and gave the opposition a tough time early on. Komal Thatal’s 8th minute strike went whiskers past the Italian custodian as India hunted in packs for an early lead. In the 13th minute, Aniket came close to opening the goal scoring charts for India but his effort went straight down the keeper’s throat resulting in an easy save.

In the 31st minute however, the goal for the Indian Colts came when Abhijit Sarkar’s cross took a wicked deflection off the Italian defence line and ended up in the back of the opposition net to give India the lead.

After India led 1-0 at half-time, the Colts searched to extend the their lead and safeguard the result. In the 59th minute, Aniket missed a one versus one chance against the Italian goalkeeper after he rounded the opposition custodian up but failed to convert.

Rahul in the 75th minute came close to scoring when he failed to tap the ball home from handshaking distance after Aniket’s shot had earned an uncanny save by the Italian custodian.

Goal scoring chances every now and then had to bear fruits and it did for the Indian Colts in the 80th minute when Rahul scored from inside the box to double India’s lead as the scoreline read 2-0.

The full-time scoreline read the same as the Indian U-17 World Cup Team registered a historic feat in Indian Football.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Bengaluru go down to Mohun Bagan in AFC Cup

Bengaluru FC Media 

A heavily-rested and young Bengaluru FC squad went down fighting 3-1 to Mohun Bagan in a Group E fixture of the AFC Cup, at the Rabindra Sarobar Stadium, in Kolkata, on Wednesday. With only one team progressing to the knock-out stages, the Blues will need nothing but a win against Maziya S&RC when the two sides meet on May 31st after the Maldivian side beat Abahani Dhaka 2-0 in the group’s other fixture on the day.

Group E had new leaders after Maziya’s win over Abahani took them to 12 points, while the Blues dropped to second (9 points). But while a win at the Kanteerava on the 31st will leave both teams tied on points, Bengaluru FC’s superior head to head record against Maziya, will mean passage for Albert Roca’s men to the next round. Earlier in April, the Blues traveled to Maldives and came away with a 1-0 win.

With an eye on Sunday’s Federation Cup final against Bagan, Bengaluru made the trip to Kolkata without Amrinder Singh, Eugeneson Lyngdoh, Juanan Gonzalez, Lenny Rodrigues, Cameron Watson and Udanta Singh. Defenders John Johnson and Harmanjot Khabra meanwhile, missed the fixture owing to suspensions as Keegan Pereira captained a side that had an average age of just twenty three.

Despite a bright Bengaluru start where Daniel Lalhlimpuia heaved his shot woefully high from close early on, the Blues fell behind in the 10th minute when Raynier Fernandes’ chip over the defence met Jeje Lalpekhlua’s run before the striker calmly slotted past Lalthuammawia Ralte.

Doungel then had a fantastic chance in the 24th minute when he picked Vineeth’s headed pass, shook off two Bagan defenders only to see his shot on target kept out by Shilton Paul.

But the Blues striker made amends seven minutes into the second half. Collecting the ball ten yards outside the box, Doungel sent in a rasping drive that Paul couldn’t do anything about, to make it 1-1. Vineeth then had the chance to hand the Blues a lead in the 55th minute when he found himself through on goal with a fantastic pass, but his shot to beat Paul was weak and straight at the ’keeper.

Bengaluru went behind for a second time in the game although with a hint of bad luck. Kean Lewis’ shot at Ralte took a heavy deflection, off Gursimrat Singh’s heel, before bouncing and looping over a stranded ’keeper on its way in. The hosts then had a strike from outside the box of their own when Bikramjit Singh Sr. connected cleanly to make it 3-1 to the hosts. Bengaluru's final chance of the evening came when substitute Rino Anto’s cross in the last minute of regulation time was tipped over off the crossbar by Paul.

Roca’s second half changes included Anto and Lalchhuanmawia who played their first minutes for the Blues this season after having recovered from injuries.

Bengaluru now make the trip back to Cuttack, where they face Sanjoy Sen’s side a sixth time this season, in the summit clash of the Federation Cup, on Sunday.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Bengaluru FC face Bagan in AFC ahead of Sunday’s Fed Cup final

Bengaluru FC Media 

In what will be a precursor of the Federation Cup final, a rested Bengaluru FC side will take on Mohun Bagan in a Group E game of the AFC Cup at the Rabindra Sarobar Stadium, in Kolkata, on Wednesday. While both Bengaluru and Maziya S&RC are level on points 9 points from 4 games, Albert Roca’s side continue to lead the group owing to a better head-to-head record over the team from the Maldives who host Abahani Dhaka Limited in the group’s earlier kick-off.

With the battle for who makes it out of the group set to go down to the last round where Bengaluru host Maziya on May 31, Roca chose to hand a fair number of players some much needed rest. “This will be our fifth game in 8 days and it’s a situation we have to manage. The heat in Cuttack has taken a lot out of the squad and it was only fair that some of the boys get time to recover before the final.Wednesday’s AFC Cup game is a great chance for the other boys on the squad who have been thorough professionals and have put their hand up whenever the team has needed them,” said Roca on the eve of the game.

While John Johnson and Harmanjot Khabra miss the fixture with suspensions, Cameron Watson hasn’t traveled after taking ill. Amrinder Singh and Juanan Gonzalez are among the other players who haven’t traveled. Skipper Sunil Chhetri has, meanwhile, made the trip back to Bengaluru to have his injury assessed by the club’s medical team.

Mohun Bagan are out of contention in the AFC Cup and given the Federation Cup final scheduled in four days from now, manager Sanjoy Sen too could hand his key players some much-needed rest.

“No matter what squad Mohun Bagan or we decide to go with, I have no illusions of this game being one where we can afford to take our foot off the pedal. The conditions will be tougher for us and I’m confident that the boys will make the most of the experience,” added Roca.

The Blues came back from a goal down to beat Bagan 2-1 in the home leg of this fixture and Roca has told his young side to draw inspiration from that night. “Bagan have always been tough competitors and both the clubs are always fighting for titles. The younger players on the team have a point to prove to me and I’m looking forward to a good show.”

The game kicks off at 7 pm.

Former state player Mohan Velu passes away

Former state footballer Mohan Velu passed away Sunday night at a city hospital. He was 58 years old and is survived by his wife and two sons. Mohan started his career with Bangalore Mars, Gowthampuram in 1976. He later went on playing various city based teams, Jawahar Union, NGEF, CIL, HAL, and Tata Sports Club, Mumbai. 

Mohan was the son of Sadhuram, footballer and state player and was employed with HAL. He represented Karnataka in Santosh Trophy in the early 80s. Also, represented the senior India team in an exhibition match against Russia.