Bengaluru: In a match touted as a close-quartered and feisty encounter, Bengaluru FC gave an early indication of how ruthlessly they would go about their title defence, with a 3-0 trouncing of metro rivals Mumbai FC at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium on Wednesday.
CK Vineeth stepped up to the count and netted a brilliant hat-trick for the Blues in a prolific display that saw the Blues win three on the trot and go atop the league standings.
The clash kicked off on the fervent note that had punctuated the pre-match build-up as the both sides sought to find an early goal. Ex-Bengaluru man Thoi Singh showed early signs of the struggle ahead when he brought down his marker in the early minutes. Mumbai coach Santosh Kashyap’s 4-5-1 formation meant plenty of aggressive intent in the midfield, but Bengaluru maintained constant pressure by controlling possession.
The home side attempted to circumvent the midfield congestion by using the width on either side of the pitch. A flighted ball to the left flank saw captain Sunil Chhetri trap beautifully, cut inside and find Vineeth with a threaded through ball. The latter blasted above the cross bar for the first real chance of the match.
Meanwhile, Mumbai were finding it difficult to engineer any clear-cut opportunities. The away side tried to maintain parity going into half time even as Bengaluru launched a slew of attacks from the right side with Udanta Singh proving menacing.
They drew first blood when the U-22 forward nutmegged his marker, sent it to Cameron Watson who squared it for a Vineeth tap-in. Mumbai were badly jolted after conceding at the very death of the half.
BFC keep the slate clean
After the restart, Mumbai tried to level things up almost immediately when fullback Reagan Singh forced a low save to goalkeeper Amrinder Singh’s left.
Bengaluru haven’t conceded in the league, and they weren’t going to start just yet.
The Blues doubled up in the 57th minute when right back Harmanjot Khabra swerved a pin-point ball for Vineeth to crash home from five yards out.
Shortly after that, Vineeth completed the first ever hat-trick at the club when he showed excellent movement to trap a long ball away from his marker, swivel and finish low into corner with aplomb past the hapless opposition goalkeeper.
There was still joy to experience for the West Block Blue supporters as new signing Sandesh Jhingan, on loan from ISL side Kerala Blasters, made his debut at the midpoint of the second half, as Bengaluru cantered home in resounding fashion.
Roca praise for Vineeth
Home coach Albert Roca had only words of praise for his star man who is in a rich vein of form. “I’m happy with Vineeth. He’s done a great job. He has to be consistent as there are lot of strikers who are waiting in his position.”
Bengaluru will take the confidence from this win going into the next four matches, which are all away from home, starting with East Bengal on January 2....