Bengaluru succumb to first defeat

Bengaluru FC succumbed to their first defeat in the AFC Cup, losing 0-2 to New Radiant at the National Stadium here on Wednesday.

Ali Fasir netted the opener in the 30th minute and Ali Ashfaq added another in 47th for New Radiant. 

The Group E is tantalisingly poised as both teams sit on nine points with two games to play.

In the other Group E game, Abahani Dhaka were held to a 1-1 draw by Aizawl FC, which leaves all to be played for in the final two rounds of the South Zone.

Eduard Gasol took charge in the absence of the suspended Albert Roca as Bengaluru made seven changes to the starting XI with Juanan, Rahul Bheke, Subhasish Bose, Victor Perez, Lenny Rodrigues, Udanta Singh and skipper Sunil Chhetri, all returning to the team.

Bengaluru looked jaded and a shadow of the team that triumphed in the Super Cup last week. The Blues went behind in the 30th minute after Fasir finished a move down the left with a strike past Lalthuammawia Ralte.

Chhetri had a chance to level things in the 36th minute when he found himself through on goal. But New Radiant goalkeeper Mohamed Imran denied the Bengaluru skipper.

With a suspended Roca passing instructions to the bench from the stands, Bengaluru started the second half with two changes. Paartalu and Lenny were pulled off for Malsawmzuala and Boithang Haokip.

But the charge suffered a heavy dent soon when striker Ali Ashfaq capitalised on a defensive blunder from Bheke to give the hosts a two-goal cushion. 

Bengaluru continued to toil under the sun and looked like in danger of falling back further if it hadn’t been for some brave goalkeeping from Ralte. The Bengaluru custodian kept lending his attack an opportunity to claw back into the tie, making some vital saves in the second half.

With a little more than ten minutes left, Bengaluru made their final change, bringing Daniel Lalhlimpuia on for Thongkhosiem Haokip. The last ten minutes didn’t produce much chances for the Blues who suffered their first defeat in the competition since the 1-0 away loss to FC Istiklol Dushanbe in the first leg of the Inter-zone Final in the AFC Cup in 2017.

Bengaluru will go on to host domestic rivals Aizawl FC in their next game on May 2 at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium.

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