I-League Qualifiers: Bhawanipore FC, Mohammedan Sporting start with a win

Bhawanipore FC defeated FC Bengaluru United 2-0 in the first match of the Hero I-League Qualifiers on Thursday as football returned after COVID-19 lockdown.

Action during an I-League qualifiers match between Bhawanipore FC and FC Bengaluru United in Kolkata on Thursday.   -  AIFF MEDIA

Bhawanipore FC relied on counter-attacking football as it defeated FC Bengaluru United 2-0 in the first match of the Hero I-League Qualifiers on Thursday.

Sanitation tunnels, temperature checks and socially distant pre-match routines were in place at the Salt Lake Stadium in Kolkata as live sporting action returned to Indian shores for the first time since the lockdown. The match was played in empty stadium, however, that did little to deter the players who put in a passionate display.

READ: All eyes on Mohammedan Sporting as Indian football returns

The first clear-cut opportunity fell to FC Bengaluru United in the 21st minute when Bhawanipore custodian Shilton Paul came flying off his line to punch clear a corner but couldn’t connect cleanly. However, Bengaluru failed to punish the mistake as Azharuddin Mallick, with very little time to react, was only able to head over the bar.

Paul didn’t let that minor mishap faze him though as he commanded his box impressively, keeping the Bengaluru forwards at bay with a string of impressive collections.

FC Bengaluru continued to press for the opener but much against the run of play, Bhawanipore broke the deadlock in the final minute of the first-half added time. Ghanian forward Philip Adjah was sent through on goal and his shot was only parried onto the feet of an onrushing Pankaj Moula, who was at hand to tap in the rebound.

As expected, FC Bengaluru United came out all guns blazing in the second half but were met by a well-drilled Bhawanipore defence.

With Bengaluru committing men forward, Bhawanipore doubled their lead in the 60th minute with a lightning-quick counter-attack. Altamash Sayed picked up the ball just outside his penalty box and played a long ball in search of Adjah. The Ghanian kept Bengaluru skipper Rana Gharami at bay and then thumped a powerful volley right across the face of goal, leaving the keeper no chance as the ball bounced in off the far post.

Bhawanipore Head Coach Sankarlal Chakraborty said, “The opposition played well and could have scored too but our defensive game was good and we made the most of our chances. Our discipline and defensive organization was the decisive factor. We hope to improve and build on this for the future matches.”

This win gives Bhawanipore three points and puts it on top of the five-team table. It takes on Garhwal FC on October 14, while FC Bengaluru United will play Garhwal in its next outing on October 11.

Mohammedan wins

The other match saw the relative newcomer Garhwal FC putting up a spirited fight against a seasoned Mohammedan Sporting. The home team faltered for a great part of the action trying to defend Garhwal FC’s quick counter-attacks. As the match appeared to be headed for a goalless affair, Munmun Lugun found the net off a spectacular long-ranger in the injury-time (90+4 minutes) to see Sporting getting home with a win.

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