AFC Cup: Bengaluru keep their qualification hopes alive with a thrilling win

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AFC Cup: Bengaluru keep their qualification hopes alive with a thrilling win

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Amlan Majumdar

04/13/2016

Bengaluru FC defeated Ayeyawady United 5-3 in an enthralling group stage tie of the AFC Cup at the Kanteerava Stadium on Wednesday. The reigning Fed Cup champions kept their hopes of qualifying for the knock-out stage alive with this win, and​ have now climbed up to the second spot in Group H.

Bengaluru FC:Mawia (GK), Manju, Pereira, Thoi, R Vishal, Len, Hanghal, Alwyn, Nishu, Daniel, Mawia, Vineeth

Ayeyawady United:Vanlal (GK), San Myo, Thein Naing, Arkar, M.M.Thu, K.Z.Y Win, T.H Zaw, A.K Naing, Ko Ko Thein, Takubu Abubakar, Chizoba

After going top of the I-League on the back of a six-match unbeaten run, 2013/14 I-League champions Bengaluru welcomed Ayeyawady United FC of Myanmar for their fourth group stage match of the 2016 AFC Cup. With just two points away from the I-League crown, with two matches to go, Bengaluru FC coach Ashley Westwood opted for a much-changed line-up for the match, with the crucial game against Salgaocar on the back of his mind. Skipper Sunil Chhetri, who scored the lone goal when the two teams met last time, was given a rest, while Vishal Kumar, NS Manju, and Nishu Kumar started for the first time in the season.

Although, it was a much-changed side, the home side dominated the opening exchanges and threatened the goal a couple of times with C K Vineeth, Thoi Singh and Alwyn George giving a hard time to the Ayeyawady defenders. Striker Daniel Lalhlimpuia hit the crossbar in the 10th minute from the centre of the box after receiving a pass from Vineeth. Vineeth was everywhere in the first forty-five finding teammates with inch-perfect passes and running between the lines to find space for himself.

The goal looked like coming every time the home team attacked, but unfortunately for Ayeyawady it came from a poor back pass from the keeper in the 20th minute. Vineeth made the most of the horrible back pass from the right back and skipped past the onrushing keeper to tap the ball into an empty net.

The attacks were never ending from the home side and Vineeth rushed forward in every possible instance to have a crack at the goal. But similar to their opponents, who were having a hard time at the back, Bengaluru FC defence also didn’t look assured at times with Nigerian forward Christopher Chizoba enjoying a lot of free runs at the goal. Those proved to be the warning signs as the Myanmar side found their equalizer two minutes before the break through a strike from Thiha Zaw. Takubu Abubakar set up the Myanmar midfielder for a shot and the midfielder took it beautifully with a crisp shot from outside the box to leave Lalthuammawia Ralte rooted to his spot.

The home side continued from where they left off in the first half and kept creating chances in attack in the 2nd half. In the 61st minute, Alwyn George gave Bengaluru the lead once again. Vishal Kumar picked out the midfielder with a brilliant cross inside the box from the right flank. Alwyn's first attempt on goal was blocked by Vanlal, however, he made no mistake in finding the back of the net from his second attempt.

Just five minutes later, Seminlen Doungel doubled their lead to make it 3-1. Vineeth played Doungel through on goal with a glancing header, before the forward beautifully placed the ball beyond the goalkeeper.

However, Bengaluru's lead did not last long as Ayeyawady showed tremendous character to put the match back on level terms. Christopher Chizoba scored a brace in the space of nine minutes, the last of which was down to a mistake by Mawia in the Bengaluru goal. The custodian got a hand to Chizoba's shot, but somehow allowed it to bounce into the net.

As goals continued to rain at the Kanteerava Stadium, Bengaluru were not to be kept quite for too long as well. Beikhokhei Beingaichho gave the home side the lead once again, in the 80th minute, after Vineeth created an opening down the left flank. The forward looked for Alwyn inside the box with a cross, and the midfielder missed his shot. The ball, however, reached Beikhokhei at the far post, and he applied the finishing touch.

Alwyn gave Bengaluru the much-needed cushion they were looking for in the 89th minute, as he restored the two-goal lead for his team. Udanta skipped past San Myo and Aung Kyaw, before Vanlal used his body to clear away the danger. However, the ball got back to Udanta, who then picked out an unmarked Alwyn in the center, and the attacking midfielder completed his brace with a tap in. 

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