The Blues ground out a gritty display to come away with a 1-0 win, courtesy a second half header from CK Vineeth, over I-League debutantes Aizawl FC at the Kanteerava Stadium on Sunday night. Gaffer, Ashley Westwood, termed the performance as ‘something the club needed’ but stressed that the team could have been more fluent and composed.
“A win’s a win. It was something that we were looking for and with a different attacking trio, it was a chance for us to play some free flowing football. I thought we did well but we could have done with some more quality and perhaps been more composed on the ball,” he said.
Westwood started with Len Doungel, CK Vineeth and skipper Sunil Chhetri in attack which meant North Korean striker Kim Song Yong was on the bench, a decision that Westwood said afforded the forward a bit of rest on the back of a punishing schedule. “Len, Vineeth and Sunil are some of the quickest players in the team and we gave them license to raid forward but with discipline. We wanted to cause their defence some problems and I think we did alright in that respect,” he said. “Kim’s played almost five games in 14 days and we need to rotate our players well to ensure that we take care of them,” he said.
Having kept a clean sheet, Westwood believed that his back-four did a good job, controlling Aizawl’s forwards, especially Alfred Jaryan. “Their striker (Jaryan) is decent, a bit of a handful and I thought the defence dealt with him well. We shut out the angles well and protected ourselves from long-range shots, which is something that they do well. There were lots of ricochets and deflections for Aizawl. They did not really carve us open and I think the defence did well in that respect,” said Westwood.
Malsawmzuala partnered Michael Collins in central midfield, putting in a strong shift, spraying the ball around with purpose and breaking up Aizawl’s forays into the Blues’ half. However, the youngster was withdrawn after he sustained a knock in the second half but Westwood was quick to assure that the injury wasn’t serious. “Zuala just twisted his ankle and that’s that, we think he is going to be fine,” he said. Len Doungel took a knock to his calf and was replaced by Kim while Sunil Chhetri who returned to the starting XI after missing Bengaluru’s midweek fixture in Laos made way for Daniel Lalhlimpuia.
The Blues will now travel to Shillong to face Shillong Lajong FC on the 2nd of March at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium followed by a trip to the Fatorda to take on Sporting Clube de Goa four days later.