Friday, October 16, 2020

Mohammedan Sporting secure I-League return after 2-0 win over Bhawanipore

 AIFF Media 

Mohammedan Sporting made sure of their place in the 2020-21 edition of the Hero I-League as they bested local rivals Bhawanipore FC in their Hero I-League Qualifiers 2020 match on Friday (October 16, 2020) at the Kalyani Stadium — returning to the competition after a gap of seven years. Goals from Vanlalbiaa Chhangte and Gani Nigam gave the Black Panthers a 2-0 win, which enables them to tie down first place in the competition despite one round of fixtures still to play.

The win takes Mohammedan, who last played in the Hero I-League in the 2013-14 season, to nine points with one match to play, three ahead of Bhawanipore — who also have one game remaining on the final day. However, they cannot overtake Mohammedan owing to an inferior head-to-head record after today’s result.

The first half of the ‘virtual final’ began in a fiery manner right from kick-off and in just the third minute, Mohammedan Sporting looked destined to take the lead through Vanlalbiaa Chhangte. The ball fell to the right-winger inside the box from a free-kick and he launched a powerful shot on goal from close range, only to be denied by a diving Shilton Paul, who made a terrific reflex save.

The opportunity set the tone for the rest of the game between the two local rivals as Mohammedan kept more possession and Bhawanipore looked to play on the counter-attack — a strategy which had paid rich dividends for Sankarlal Chakraborty and his team in their two previous games.

Midfielder Firoj Ali came close to finding the target from long range for the Black Panthers in the 18th minute, with his shot being blocked away for a corner. Six minutes later, Bhawanipore’s star forward Philip Adjah almost gave his side the lead on the other end of the pitch. Latching on to a weak clearance, the Ghanaian targeted Priyant Singh’s near post from the edge of the penalty area but saw his effort get deflected, hit the post and go back into play.

On the very next attack, in the 27th minute, Mohammedan claimed the go-ahead goal through Chhangte — who was not to be denied this time by Shilton. The move began with some beautiful build-up play between Chhangte and Willis Plaza down the right flank, with the latter finding SK Faiaz inside the box with a pinpoint through-pass. The forward laid it off for an onrushing Chhangte with a delectable first touch and the winger rounded Shilton to score and give his side the lead.

Bhawanipore sparked into life after the goal as they looked to find the equalizer before the break. Enjamul Hoque wasted a useful crossing opportunity in the 32nd minute and five minutes later, Adjah came close again — as he latched on to a chipped through-ball and looked to chip an advancing Priyant Singh but his shot only found the side netting.

With two minutes to go, Bhawanipore’s Subhankar Das tried his luck with a rasping drive from long range, which went just wide of the target as the two teams went into the breather with the Black Panthers in front by one goal.

Sankarlal opted to make attacking changes in the second half as his side went in hunt of the equalizer. Eight minutes after the restart, Pankaj Moula, who already has two goals to his name in the tournament, found himself on the end of a cross from the left flank but his header was deflected wide for a corner.

As the match wore on, the tension levels began to intensify, with the tackles flying in at both ends. In the 64th minute, Adjah had another glorious chance to put his side back level as he cut in from the left flank after beating two defenders. In a one-on-one situation with the keeper, his shot was straight at Priyant as another chance went begging for the side in blue.

Bhawanipore were then made to pay for their missed chances in the 67th minute as substitute Gani Nigam doubled Mohammedan’s lead. Safiul Rahaman swung in a free-kick from the right, which came off Monotosh Chakladar and reached Nigam at the far post, who chested the ball calmly and slotted home through Shilton’s legs to extend his side’s advantage.

Despite the setback, Bhawanipore continued to pour men forward and in the 79th minute, they looked poised to reduce the deficit — only to be denied by a brilliant save. Avinabo Bag played in a swerving cross for Jiten Murmu, who headed the ball on target but Priyant acrobatically dived to his right to turn the ball away for a corner.

Two minutes from full time, Mohammedan substitute Abhishek Rijal almost made it three for his side with a free header from close range but his effort was just wide. In the end, the Black Panthers saw out the game with ease, even though Bhawanipore threw the kitchen sink at it and made it three wins in three to complete their return to the Hero I-League.

After the match,  Mohammedan’s assistant coach Saheed Ramon stated, “It’s a great feeling for all of us to qualify for the Hero I-League. It means a lot to us. Qualifying this time is a very good thing for the club and our supporters.”

Talking about the game, he said, “We had studied Bhawanipore’s game and knew that they are strong on the counter-attack. We put out our strategy according to that and it worked well.”

Bhawanipore FC head coach Sankarlal Chakraborty said, “The defeat is disappointing, of course. We knew that Mohammedan are a strong team and they played well. We had our fair share of chances and if we could convert them, the result would have been different. Now, our focus on the next match against ARA FC on October 19.”

On the last matchday on Monday (October 19, 2020), Mohammedan Sporting will face FC Bengaluru United at the VYBK Stadium while Bhawanipore will take on ARA FC in Kalyani.

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Injury-time penalty rescues point for Bengaluru United against ARA FC

AIFF Media 

Gujarat-based ARA FC and FC Bengaluru United played out a pulsating 1-1 draw in the Hero I-League Qualifiers 2020 at the Kalyani Stadium on Wednesday (October 14, 2020). It seemed that forward Pratik Swami’s strike would prove to be the difference between the two sides but substitute Asrar Rehber successfully converted from the spot with the game’s last kick to rescue a point for Bengaluru United.

Both teams came into the match on the back of contrasting results, with Bengaluru United defeating Garhwal FC by one goal in their last game while ARA suffered a deflating 4-1 loss against Mohammedan Sporting. However, it was the side from Gujarat that went into the breather with the lead — thanks to Swami’s goal in the 36th minute.

Vivek Nagul’s side started brightly, with Stanley Eze posing danger with a deft through-ball in the 10th minute. However, it was snuffed out just in the nick of time by keeper Kunzang Bhutia. The Nigerian then had a scoring opportunity in the next minute with a close-range free-kick but his shot flew just over the bar.

Midfielder Jordan Fernandes came close for ARA in the 16th minute as well, shooting powerfully from distance but his effort was deflected and landed on the roof of the FCBU net.

Wearing the captain’s armband for Bengaluru United was forward Azharuddin Mallick and he was presented with his team’s best chance of the half in the 19th minute. Collecting the ball inside the box, he turned his marker and fired a shot straight towards ARA custodian Melroy Fernandes who collected comfortably at his near post.

As both teams tussled for supremacy, ARA took the lead through a splendid goal from local Ahmedabad lad Pratik Swamy. A blocked shot from Jordan fell to Swami, who cut inside the defender with an excellent feint and saw his powerful shot take a wicked deflection to fly past Bhutia in goal.

FCBU head coach Richard Hood made two changes at the break, bringing in Akhil P and Aditya Mohan as his side looked to make their way into the match. In the 53rd minute, they came close through William Opoku, who had scored the winning goal against Garhwal as well, but his shot from a narrow angle could only hit the side netting.

The Ghanaian had another golden opportunity with 20 minutes to go as he played in Amey Ranawade with a pinpoint through ball. The full-back cut the ball back to Opoku at the edge of the area but he scuffed his first-time shot as it sailed well over the goal. He had another similar chance in the 76th minute via a cross from the left side by Aditya Mohan but yet again, his shot was skied over the target.

As the final whistle came closer, tension levels in the Bengaluru side continued to rise as they relentlessly pursued the leveller but could not create a concrete chance. They continued to commit men forward and in the 84th minute, Robert Primus headed a long throw-in dangerously across the ARA goal but none of his teammates followed up at the far post and the chance went begging.

ARA, who had shipped four goals against a rampant Mohammedan Sporting in their last game, showed great grit to hold firm and defended in numbers as they tried to maintain the clean sheet. However, in the last minute of five minutes of added time, heartbreak was to follow for the Gujarati side as FCBU substitute Jaison Vaz was brought down by keeper Melroy — with the referee pointing to the spot.

Rehber found the back of the net from 12 yards as both sides split a point each. As a result, ARA picked up their first point after two games while Bengaluru United stay third on the table with four points — two behind league leaders Mohammedan SC and Bhawanipore FC, who had beaten Garhwal FC 2-1 in the first match of the day.

ARA will now face Garhwal FC in Kalyani on Friday (October 16, 2020) while FC Bengaluru will be in action next on the final matchday on Monday (October 19, 2020) against Mohammedan SC.

After the match, ARA FC head coach Vivek Nagul stated, “The result feels like two points lost, definitely. It was a great game and I am proud of the way my players played. We stuck to our tactics and it worked as our wingers really made life difficult for the wingbacks. Mathematically, we can still make it to the top spot and I still believe in our chances.”

FCBU head coach Richard Hood said, “After conceding the goal, we played good quality football. We pressed hard and kept the ball well but you don’t get points for that. We need to look at our performance with a cool head and prepare for our final game. We’re not getting into the mathematics of the points table. For us, we want to play the last match with our heads up.”

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Bengaluru United look to sustain the ‘momentum’ against ARA

 AIFF Media 

Looking to build on their win in their last match against Garhwal FC in their previous game FC Bengaluru United will hope to build on the momentum when they take on ARA FC of Ahmedabad at the Kalyani Municipal Stadium on Wednesday (October 14) at IST 4.30pm.

It’s one loss and one win for Bengaluru from their first two matches in the Hero I-League Qualifiers — India’s first sporting event after the COVID-19-induced Lockdown as the team from the south look to secure the top spot on the league table.

“We picked ourselves up after sacrificing all the points one could in our first game. But it’s all behind us now. Every single Bengaluru United player and staff knows that we cannot afford to drop any more points. We understand the levels of performance and character that will be needed to see through our last two games in this tournament,” FC Bengaluru United Head Coach Richard Hood said.

Hood feels that his side has played “two very distinct games” in the tournament so far.

“Our momentum will be built on the lessons that we have learnt and insights gathered in the 180 minutes of football that we have fought out so far. Two very distinct games as far as our performance and intent were concerned and we remain committed to the same levels of energy and unity that we have said so far,” he added.

Meanwhile, ARA FC, who were the first outstation team to arrive in Kolkata ahead of the Hero I-League Qualifiers, believe that the 1-4 loss that they suffered at the hands of local heavyweights Mohammedan SC was a “wakeup call” for them.

“It’s a huge loss, definitely a wake-up call to push ourselves to the limit. First of all, we want players to forget about the last match and make them believe in themselves,” said ARA head coach Vivek Nagul. “Right now, motivation might work better than training, for the lads.”

Having seen Bengaluru play, Nagul feels that having a few tricks up his sleeve could help the Ahmedabad-based side’s cause against FC Bengaluru United.

“We have played earlier and also seen them playing in two games now. We know they are a physical team with high-pressing formation. Accordingly, we are working on different areas and I think we need to have a few surprises and changes in the team,” said Nagul.

Despite the losses in their respective opening games, both the sides are optimistic about their chances in the tournament, looking to bounce back into the title race.

“It’s a short four-match format. So we can expect every team to come out with their best XI for every match. We expect the same from Bengaluru. They must be high on morale after the way they bounced back from a defeat in the last game,” said Nagul. “But we have to bounce back ourselves and get the three points if we have to get back in the promotion race.”

Meanwhile Hood believes that his side’s win against Garhwal was a good way for his side to bounce back in the race for promotion and that they could be in contention till the end, should they keep picking up points from here on.

“We believe that the win definitely keeps us in the mix of things as far as the championship is concerned and takes away any dependence on other results that could keep us alive and relevant going into matchday three, which is all that we are giving our attention to right now,” Hood stated.

Monday, October 12, 2020

National Football Icon Carlton Chapman no more

One of Bangalore’s finest football product of last 80s who ruled the Indian football scene for several years, Carlton Chapman breathed his last early morning today at Philomena’s Hospital. He was only 49 years old and left his wife and two children.  

Hailing from the football suburb of Austin Town, Chapman picked up the game in Nandan Ground, then moving to SAI Centre, Bangalore. Just when he started plying his trade for Southern Blues in local BDFA league, he was spotted and joined Tata Football Academy (TFA), Jamsedpur. He was in the first batch graduated from TFA.  

Other than representing India, Chapman played for East Bengal, JCT, FC Kochin in his illustrious career as a player. Notable being a hat-trick that he scored for East Bengal against Al-Zawra, Iraq at the Asian Cup Winners' Cup in 1993.  

In JCT, along with IM Vijayan and Baichung Bhutia, Chapman made a formidable attacking lineup, which was touted as the best club in India. In the Santosh Trophy, he represented Karnataka, Punjab, and West Bengal. 

After hanging boots, he went to his alma mater and assisted Ranjan Choudhary. His long association with Royal Wahingdoh helped the team from Shillong to be a name to reckon with. Chapman was also associated with Sudeva Academy and Quartz FC in the capacity as a Technical Director. 

“Shocking”, reacted Noel Wilson while talking to, who is in Goa with Jamsedpur FC preparing for the upcoming edition of ISL. “A person I admired and followed during my early playing days”, added Noel. 

Chapman’s colleague during his playing days in East Bengal and FC Kochin Raman Vijayan sounded emotional while talking to from Chennai, “My god, hard to believe!’, he added, “Chap was my roommate for many seasons. On the field he was gutsy, always positive, and involved with the team. His never say attitude was infectious and his game was clean and simple."

"If you see most of the goals scored by Baichung, IM, or me are all from his assists. He was the best winger we got in our times. Looking at his speed, Rustam Akramov used him as a right back with much success.” 

“I have never seen him falling sick in his playing days. He was a good coach too, he could have given back more to the game!”, concludes Raman.  


Sunday, October 11, 2020

Bengaluru United pick up three points over Garhwal FC

AIFF & FCBU Media 

FC Bengaluru United picked up three points in the Hero I-League Qualifiers 2020 with a hard-fought 1-0 win over Garhwal FC at the Kalyani Stadium on Sunday (October 11, 2020). Both sides came into the match on the back of defeats in the opening round of the competition and it was Ghana international William Opoku’s goal in the eighth minute that proved to be the difference between the two teams in the end.

After a tense start, the first half came to life towards the end with both teams creating a flurry of chances but at the breather, it was the side from Bengaluru that led by one goal.

It could have been 1-0 in the very first minute as Robert Primus volleyed a shot at goal after a melee from a corner kick, but his shot could only ruffle the side netting.

In the eighth minute though, Bengaluru United went ahead through Opoku after a quality piece of play. Midfielder Arun Kumar played in Ronaldo Oliveira with a delightful through-ball that cut the Garhwal FC defence wide open and the Goan’s one-on-one effort was saved by the keeper Sayak Barai. However, Opoku was on hand to convert the rebound as he controlled the loose ball and slammed it into the back of the net.

Richard Hood’s side continued to dominate possession as Garhwal struggled to string passes together in their own half and get past Bengaluru United’s high press. They gave the ball away in dangerous positions and in the 22nd minute, it almost led to a goal as Opoku’s effort from outside the box seemed destined for the bottom corner — only to be denied by a diving Barai.

As the match wore on, Garhwal finally started to get their act together — with midfielders Bala Alhassan and Mahip Adhikari pulling the strings. They earned a number of free-kicks in attacking positions but failed to make the most of them. 

With three minutes to go, Bengaluru should have doubled their lead as Naro Hari Shrestha found himself with a free header from close range through a brilliant cross whipped in by Vignesh. However, he could only direct it towards the keeper, who collected the ball with a big sigh of relief. 

Immediately at the other end, Garhwal were inches away from equalizing — with Uttam Rai keeping the ball in the penalty area and laying it off to Victor Philip, who cut in from the right side and curled the ball towards goal, only to see it hit the crossbar and return into play. 

Vikas Rawat’s side had another golden chance to even the scores as Bala drilled in a powerful free-kick at goal from 25 yards in first-half stoppage time. The keeper Kunzang Bhutia parried it away, but it fell straight to an onrushing Neeraj Bhandari, who fluffed his lines and skied his shot. 

After the restart, both teams continued to press for advantage in midfield with chances few and far between. At the hour mark, Mahip showed some delightful footwork down the right flank to beat his marker and sent in an inviting cross for Uttam, who attempted a diving header but could not connect properly. 

Garhwal kept up the pressure but were almost caught out on the break as Amey Ranawade found Opoku with a cross from the right wing but the Ghanain couldn’t bring the ball under his control as he overran it. 

The side in yellow continued to press for their first goal of the tournament, holding the ball better and looking to create trouble. However, they found it difficult to penetrate the Bengaluru defence and were limited to shots from distance, with Muhammed Shafeer coming closest in the 83rd minute from a long-range free-kick. 

In the end, Bengaluru held on to their lead comfortably and as a result, moved up the points table with their first win of the tournament. They return to Kalyani for their next match on Wednesday (October 14, 2020) against ARA FC while Garhwal FC will take on Bhawanipore FC, who defeated FCBU in their opener, at the VYBK, Kolkata at 12.30 PM IST on the same day. 

After the match, FC Bengaluru United head coach Richard Hood stated, “We were disappointed after the previous result and it was important for us to prove to ourselves that we can fight and play out a tough game. Securing three points gives us a strong ray of hope ahead of the upcoming fixtures.”