Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Shankar's timely header ends late drama as Bengaluru start AFC Cup campaign with a win

Bengaluru FC Media

Bengaluru FC scripted a historic and drama-filled first win in Asian competition when Shankar Sampingiraj headed home in 93rd minute to give the Blues a 2-1 win over Maldivian side Maziya S&RC in a Group E opener of the AFC Cup at the Kanteerava Stadium, in Bengaluru, on Tuesday. 

Having bossed all of the game, Bengaluru looked like cruising to three points after a 67th-minute header by Sunil Chhetri gave the Blues a lead they fully deserved. But a John Johnson handball in the box three minutes from time saw the visitors equalise when Mohamed Umair scored from the spot. 

However, falling back on the resilience that has seen them through many tough situations, Bengaluru got their winner when Shankar nodded home Eugeneson Lyngdoh’s freekick to send the BFC faithful into raptures. 

Bengaluru suffered an early set-back when less than twenty minutes into the game, Westwood had to pull Joshua Walker off after the midfielder was struggling with what seemed like a strained thigh. The forced substitution almost turned out to be an ace when Siam Hanghal’s rasping strike from 25-yards out, took the fingertips of Maziya goalkeeper Imran before crashing the crossbar and going out. 

Walker’s absence didn’t seem to deter the Blues who were all over Maziya in a fantastic first half show that had everything but a goal. Shankar, who started in midfield for a rested Thoi Singh, had a header tipped over before Robin Singh and Eugeneson Lyngdoh had chances in quick succession. 

Bengaluru refused to take their foot off the pedal, coming all guns blazing at Maziya as soon as the second half resumed. Chhetri came agonizingly close twice inside ten minutes. Being perfectly picked by a Rino Anto cross in the 48th minute, Chhetri glanced a header that was headed home before Imran pulled off a brilliant save to deny the skipper. However, the Anto-Chhetri combination was destined a goal on the night and it came from a header. Meeting Anto’s perfect cross from the right, Chhetri thumped home a header that beat Imran all ends up. 

Bengaluru’s next Cup game is an away tie to Indonesia where they play Persipura Jayapura on March 10.