Bengaluru FC trumped Aizawl FC 3-1 in a AFC group stage encounter at the Rajiv Gandhi Stadium in Aizawl on Thursday.
The home side opened the scoring through Leonce Dodoz (6’) but Daniel Segovia (45+1’) scored from the spot to level things up at half-time. In the second-half, Rahul Bheke (63’) and Daniel Lalhlimpuia (77’) registered their names on the score-sheet to complete the rout.
Santosh Kashyap rang in the changes for Aizawl from their last match against Chennaiyin in the Super Cup. Avilash Paul was brought in to replace Arup Debnath in goal and Lalchhuanawma Varte got a rare start in defense replacing Lalchhawnkima. In midfield, skipper Alfred Jaryan paired up with Andrei Ionescu and Albert Zohmingmawia, whereas Leonce Dodoz started as a solitary striker upfront.
Albert Roca decided to rest key players like Miku, Sunil Chhetri and chose to give an oppotunity to fringe players. Lalthuammawia Ralte started in goal instead of regular custodian Gurpreet Singh. Juanan, Bheke, Nishu Kumar and Subhasish Bose made the back four. Erik Paartalu and Viktor Perez held the keys at the centre of the park whereas, Thongkhosiem Haokip started upfront.
Bengaluru started the match on the front-foot as they started piling up the pressure from the first whistle. Whereas, the hosts were primarily dependent on attacking on the break. Jaryan was playing a pivotal role in midfield as he was breaking up play and sprayed passes upfront to initiate quick counter-attacks.
It was through one such counter-attack that Aizawl drew first blood against the Blues . Ionescu threaded a defense splitting pass from midfield which was latched on to by Albert. The number 11 fired a shot but was closed down quickly by Mawia coming out of his line. But, the goalie failed to make a clean save and the pieces fell for Dodoz who calmly slotted the ball into the bottom left corner.
Aizawl could have doubled their lead in the 20th minute when a brilliant give-and-go between Dodoz and Jaryan opened up Bengaluru’s defense. But, thanks to goalkeeper Mawia’s perfectly timed charge, Jaryan’s feeble effort on the ball was deflected away for a corner.
Bengaluru was commanding bulk of the possession but lack of imagination in the attacking third was not helping Albert Roca’s men. Aizawl maintained their shape at the back and continued to break forward with pace and precision at every opportunity.
Dodoz kept dangling as a lone striker and continued to ask questions of Bengaluru’s back four. If the Ivorian had some support up-front then it could have brewed up more trouble for Bengaluru.
Bengaluru could have levelled things up but Perez chose to blast his effort from a set-piece high and wide of the target.
But the JSW owned outfit did not have to wait long for the equalizer as Segovia scored from the spot right at the nick of half-time. Dodoz was guilty of handling the ball while defending a corner and the referee immediately pointed to the spot. Segovia stepped up and outfoxed Paul to send him the wrong way as the ball rolled into the back of the net.
Bengaluru continued to pile pressure on Aizawl and was rewarded with a penalty within ten minutes of the resumption as Bose was tripped inside the box by Laldinliana. Segovic stepped up for the second time but hit the left-post from 12 yards out.
Just after the hour mark, Bheke headed in from close range to put the visitors ahead after latching on to an inch-perfect cross from Alwyn George.
Aizawl tried to get back into the game through David Lalrinmuana as the former East Bengal player was brought into action with 20 minutes to go.
But, Daniel Lalhlimpuia’s goal put the final nail on the coffin for Aizawl. Bose put in a fantastic cross from the flanks and the substitute made no mistake to put it beyond Paul.
Although Aizawl upped their ante in the closing minutes, Mawia in goal was on his toes to snuff away any danger created by Ionescu and Dodoz.
Both teams will now shift their attention to the domestic circuit as Aizawl will be back in action on April 8, whereas Bengaluru will take the field on April 13 in the Super Cup.