Bengaluru: A sole Daniel Lalhlimpuia strike was enough to seal a 1-0 win for Bengaluru FC against Abahani Dhaka in their opening AFC Cup Group E fixture here at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium on Wednesday.
The hosts improved their head-to-head record against the Bangladesh Premier League champions to 2-1, with both teams having won a match each in last season’s continental cup campaign.
With a small matter of an Indian Super League final to play on Saturday, head coach Albert Roca did a 360-degree rotation of his squad by making 11 changes to the starting line-up. On the bench, only Subhasish Bose and Daniel Segovia were the only first-team regulars in a squad largely comprised of fringe and youth players. New signing Victor Perez made his first start for the club.
The visitors took the game to the opposition in the opening exchanges, with Japanese playmaker Kojima Seiya and Nigerian forward Emeka Onuaha trying to force an opening. The former struck from a tight angle but BFC goalkeeper Lalthuammawia palmed away comfortably in the 35th minute.
The midfield trio of Perez, Alwyn Geroge and Semboi Thongkhosiem combined well to feed Daniel, and striker came within inches of a goal in the first half.
Both teams vied for ascendancy in the middle of the park in a goalless first half.
The Blues came storming out in the second half and laid siege to the Abahani goal. Alwyn and right-back Sameer constantly found space down the right flank and supplied accurate balls for Perez and Semboi. The latter, who scored twice in the play-off stage home leg against TC Sports, missed a guilt-edged chance - firing wide on the volley after Sameer floated a pinpoint cross in the 55th minute.
Substitute forward Segovia came off the bench with half an hour to go and made the difference in breaking down a stubborn Abahani defence. Alwyn’s cross was neatly headed down by Segovia into Daniel’s path, and the Mizo goalscorer found the target with aplomb in the 72nd minute.
The Spaniard Segovia could have one of his own a few minutes later but struck meekly into the goalkeeper Sahidul Alam’s gloves.
Frenetic defending to close out the result ensued for the final 10 minutes, as BFC clinched all three points. The 2016 finalists will play Aizawl FC next in the group on April 5.
Earlier, Aizawl FC suffered a 1-3 drubbing at the hands of New Radiant in their maiden group stage AFC Cup match, with inspirational skipper Ali Ashfaq’s hat-trick leading the Maldivian charge....