Naocha Sees Red; Blues Log Three Points As Race For Semifinal Goes Down To The Wire
Bengaluru: Bengaluru FC ran out 2-0 winners against RoundGlass Punjab FC in their second Group A fixture of the Super Cup, at the EMS Corporation Stadium, in Kozhikode, on Wednesday. The Blues, powered by goals from substitute Udanta Singh (66’) and Javi Hernandez (90+7’), find themselves in second place with four points from two games, behind Sreenidi Deccan FC, who beat Kerala Blasters in the early kickoff on the day.
Earlier, Bengaluru Head Coach Simon Grayson made two changes to the side that started the Blues’ clash against Sreenidi Deccan FC last week, as Namgyal Bhutia and Sivasakthi replaced Prabir Das and Roy Krishna. RoundGlass, meanwhile, made three changes from their previous encounter against Kerala Blasters, with Krishananda Singh, Ajay Chhetri who is on loan from BFC, and Huidrom Naocha Singh taking their spot in the starting eleven.
RoundGlass started well, making decent inroads into the Blues defensive third, while Bengaluru looked to hit on the counterattack, utilizing the pace of Naorem Roshan Singh and Namgyal Bhutia down the flanks.
Staikos Vergetis’ side nearly opened the scoring in the 19th minute, when Hmingthanmawia got to the end of a free kick from Juan Mera. But the defender placed his effort into the side netting before the linesman’s flag went up for offside. A minute later, it was Rohit Kumar’s turn to go close, when the midfielder’s effort came crashing back into play off the crossbar.
The Blues had a chance to take the lead just before the break when Sivasakthi’s effort was saved by Kiran Limbu. Chhetri, who picked up the rebound, opted to play Rohit through, but the midfielder dragged his shot wide from close range. Ahead of the restart, Grayson made his intent clear to push for a lead, adding more firepower to his attack in the form of Krishna and Udanta, who replaced Sivasakthi and Parag Shrivas.
Minutes after coming on, Udanta hit the afterburners to beat Hmingthanmawia before setting up Chhetri with a cross from the right, but the skipper’s header on goal was matched by a fine save from Limbu. The RoundGlass ’keeper was at it again only a few minutes later, when he showed stunning reflexes to deny Udanta’s effort on goal from point blank range.
The Blues continued to make forays into the final third before their efforts bore fruit past the hour mark when Udanta scored to put Bengaluru into the lead. Roshan’s corner was flicked on by substitute Pablo Perez, forcing Limbu to parry the ball into the air and kindly for Udanta, who nodded home from close range.
RoundGlass were reduced to 10 men in the 78th minute, when Naocha was handed his second yellow card for a foul on Bhutia, with the Blues’ full-back having beaten five players en route to bearing down on goal.
Javi put the game beyond the reach of the hosts, with the Spaniard scoring his second goal in as many games after being brought down by Mohammed Salah in the box prompting the referee to point to the spot in the final minute of added time.
The Blues will face Kerala Blasters in their final Group A fixture at the EMS Stadium, in Kozhikode, on Sunday.