Bengaluru FC, on Sunday, ensured their progress to the Group Stages of the 2021 AFC Cup with a 1-0 win over Club Eagles at the National Stadium, in Male.
Jayesh Rane’s first-half strike proved to be the difference between the two sides, as Marco Pezzaiuoli’s side joined ATK Mohun Bagan, Maziya S&RC and Bashundhara Kings in Group D.
Pezzaiuoli handed full debuts to Alan Costa, Sarthak Golui, Jayesh and Rohit Kumar, with two other new signings, Danish Farooq and Bidyashagar Singh, named among the substitutes alongside B-team graduate Sivasakthi Narayanan. His counterpart Mohamed Shaazly was forced into a late change to his starting eleven, with Easa Ismail replacing Ali Ashfaq.
Club Eagles had the ball in the back of the net in the 17th minute, but Sarthak Golui had stepped up at the right moment to catch Easa offside.
The Blues then broke the deadlock in the 25th minute through debutant Jayesh. Eagles failed to clear Sarthak’s long throw from the left and the ball fell to Jayesh, who placed his shot into the bottom corner through Haisham Hassan’s legs to put BFC 1-0 up.
Gurpreet Singh Sandhu was called into action a minute before half time. From an Eagles corner, the ball took a deflection off Sarthak and was creeping in before the ’keeper reacted sharply to push it away.
Bengaluru controlled possession for a majority of the first period, and saw their lead into the break. Pezzaiuoli made no changes at half time, and it was Eagles who had the first chance of the second period, in the 67th minute, when Ali Fasir turned Sarthak and Alan in the box but scuffed his shot wide with just Gurpreet to beat.
Ashique Kuruniyan picked up a knock and was the first change of the night, replaced by Naorem Roshan Singh. Leon Augustine, on as a substitute, had a chance to double the Blues’ lead with his first touch of the game. Chhetri, who managed to retrieve possession in the box, saw Eagles ’keeper Mohamed Faisal off his line, and squared it to the 22-year-old. Leon’s shot, however, sailed over the bar with just six minutes left on the clock.
Despite a late flurry of attacks from Eagles, the Blues held firm to see out the game and seal their spot in Group D of the 2021 AFC Cup.
The Blues will be back in action on August 18 when they take on ATK Mohun Bagan in their opening group stage clash, at the same venue.