Bengaluru FC showed everyone why they are the I-League Champions after a deserved win over opponents Shillong Lajong despite playing an entire half with ten men.
The Blues could have opened the scoring in the 1st minute of the game, but Robin Singh’s shot was deflected for a corner. The chance set up the game nicely for Bengaluru as they probed for an opening and finally took the lead in the 16th minute when Shankar Sampingiraj’s cross was headed home by an unmarked Robing Singh in the box. Bengaluru could have doubled their lead in the 30th minute when a corner caused all sorts of problems but the home team did all but score.
The visitors were handed a lifeline when Curtis Osano was sent off in the 41st minute as he was the last man to make the challenge. Bengaluru’s goalkeeper Ralte spilled the subsequent free kick, buy Shillong fluffed their lines. Despite going down to 10 men, Bengaluru could have gone into the break with a two-goal lead after skipper Sunil Chhetri made a wonderful run don the left-hand side, but his shot came off the post.
For Shillong, Glenn Cornell had the only real chance in the 24th minute but failed to score.
The second half saw Shillong dominated possession, but it possession without purpose as they failed to test Ralte enough despite having the numerical advantage.
As in the first half, Robin Singh had a good chance to score in the opening minutes of the second half after being one-on-one with the Shillong goalie, but the former East Bengal man decided to go with his outer left foot and put the ball wide.
Bengaluru did not have to wait long in the second half as Thoi Singh’s header in the 61st minute doubled their lead and all but ended Shillong’s hopes of picking anything from the game. Manager Ashley Westwood made some changes for the second half that worked well. Defender NS Manju was brought on early after Osano was sent off to make up the number in defense and Beingaichho was sacrificed for him. Bengaluru showed good work rate in the second half and defended very compactly to prevent any openings for the Lajong players who were never really in the game.
After a poor start, the win was Bengaluru’s third in a row. Ashley Westwood’s men have also kept three clean sheets in a row now; the kind defensive stability that was present last season when they won the league. The Blues will next face Mohun Bagan away from home.