Bengaluru FC shrugged off a chaotic opening few minutes to beat NorthEast United FC 4-2 in its first match of the Indian Super League (ISL 2021-22) campaign on Saturday.
On a rainy and slippery night at the Bambolim stadium, some slick play and fine goals sat comfortably alongside a surfeit of mistakes and a sumptuous own goal.
BFC’s changed approach to playing football under Marco Pezzaiuoli was evident from the start, with greater purpose shown in playing through the middle, pressing further up the pitch and quick passing.
The first 25 minutes was frenetic and saw as many as four goals. Cleiton Silva opened the scoring for BFC in the 14th minute, going around the NEUFC goalie to finish off a perfectly weighted through ball from Udanta Singh.
Khalid Jamil’s side equalised soon, with Deshorn Brown, formerly of BFC, outmuscling centre-back Musavu King to turn in a fine cross from the left by V.P. Suhair. A bizarre own goal by Mashoor Shereef in the 23rd minute put BFC in the lead again. Udanta’s shot on goal, after Ashique Kuruniyan’s cross bounced off the bar, was saved by Subhasish Roy Chowdhury, only for Mashoor to smash it like a striker would, into his own net.
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But NEUFC was soon back threatening, with Suhair taking full advantage of make-shift right-back Ajith Kumar’s faulty positioning, and the strike-pair of Brown and Mathias Coureur constantly finding space between the BFC central defenders. NEUFC’s second goal came on one such occasion, with Coureur slotting the ball home after some fine work from Suhair on the wings.
But Jayesh Rane ensured that BFC would go into the break ahead. It was as direct a move as any; two passes were all that it took for the ball to move from BFC’s goal to Jayesh at the other end, and the 28-year-old drove a low ball past Roy’s outstretched right hand.
The rain relented after the break and with that BFC’s play became more cohesive and less error-prone. The side played a high line and much of the action was in the opposition half. In the 81st minute, Congolese striker Prince Ibara scored on debut, five minutes after replacing Silva, by beating Roy at the near post with a low finish into the left corner.
The only sore point for BFC was Leon Augustine going off with a knee injury barely minutes after coming on.