Blues keep AFC Cup record intact with win over Abahani

Nishu, Marjan Score As Blues Retain Top Spot in Group E Of AFC Cup

Bengaluru: Nineteen-year-old Nishu Kumar‘s first goal for the club and a Marjan Jugovic goal eight minutes from time made it three wins in as many games as Bengaluru FC beat Abahani Limited Dhaka from Bangladesh 2-0 to keep pole position (9 points) of Group E in the AFC Cup at the Kanteerava Stadium, in Bengaluru, on Tuesday.

Easy on the eye with possession, Bengaluru had Abahani sweating in the first fifteen minutes of the game. Daniel Lalhlimpuia scuffed a shot from a Lenny Rodrigues cut-back before Len Doungel and John Johnson missed the target with headed attempts in quick succession. The Blues did have a scare in the 25th minute when Mohammad Ziban found himself on goal, making most of an erroneous back pass, but Ralte’s confident charge saw the ’keeper thwart any potential danger away.

But for all the havoc the Bengaluru attack was wreaking, it was Nishu Kumar who shot the hosts into the lead in the 40th minute after some fantastic build-up play. Sneaking into the box to pick up Daniel’s pass, Nishu, with the calmness of a seasoned striker, placed the ball beyond ’keeper Sahidul Alam’s left. Ralte was involved in another goal-bound save minutes later.

If Bengaluru were dominant in the first half, they further upped the ante in the second. Harmanjot Khabra could have dealt a huge blow to any hope of an Abahani revival when, after being slid through by Chhetri, he shot straight at Alam with only the ’keeper to beat in the 59th minute. Chhetri then saw a shot from a tight angle cleared off the line by Mamun Miah for a Bengaluru corner. The set-piece, one of the many training ground variations that had the Abahani defence all at sea on the night, saw Khabra pick Juanan Gonzalez with a long cross. The Spaniard rolled in the perfect ball but John Johnson, with no one to beat, couldn’t get his foot to the ball.

The Blues’ second goal was the result of another swift move with Chhetri picking out Eugeneson Lyngdoh who floated a cross in for Jugovic. The Serbian took his time and saw his shot come off the crossbar before it bounced over the line, a finish the assistant referee confirmed. The goal was Jugovic’s second in three games as a substitute.

With coach Albert Roca serving a one-game suspension and his assistant Carles Cuadrat handling touchline duties, Bengaluru named a starting XI that saw goalkeeper Lalthuammawia Ralte make his first start for the Blues since the AFC Cup final last November. Having played a role for most season, Len Doungel too was handed a start while Lenny Rodrigues made a return to the midfield after sitting out in the win against Lajong.

The Blues next face DSK Shivajians in an I-League encounter at the Kanteerava Stadium, on Saturday.

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