Football in India made a comeback for the first time since the lockdown in March as Bhawanipore FC faced off FC Bengaluru United in the opening match of the I-League Qualifiers.
With sanitation tunnels, temperature checks and socially distant pre-match routines in place, the match was played in an empty Salt Lake Stadium in Kolkata.
Adjah puts Bengaluru United to the sword
Bhawanipore FC 2-0 FC Bengaluru United
Philip Adjah was instrumental in the 2-0 defeat of the Bengaluru United club despite the dominant possession by the team from the southern city.
Bengaluru United’s forward, Azharuddin Mallick, was presented with an opportunity to open the scoring in the 21st minute when Bhawanipore goalkeeper Shilton Paul failed to clear a corner kick. Mallick – the former Mohun Bagan forward – reacted quickly but failed to keep his header down.
Richard Hood’s players pressed on for the opener with some delightful possession play. In the first half injury time, much against the run of play, Bhawanipore broke the deadlock.
Philip Adjah was sent through on goal on the right and his shot at the far corner was not dealt cleanly by Srijith, the Bengaluru goalie. Pankaj Moula rushed in to tap in the rebound. 1-0 to Bhawanipore.
The second half continued in the same vein with Bengaluru on the attack and Bhawanipore playing on the counter.
The ploy worked when Altamash Sayed’s long ball found Adjah. The Ghanian kept Bengaluru skipper Rana Gharami at bay before thumping in a volley from the corner of the penalty box to make it 2-0 in the 60th minute.
Despite having two-thirds of the possession, Bengaluru United were dealt with the sucker punch as Adjah took his chances to give Bhawanipore three points.
Black Panthers strike late to take three points
Mohammedan SC 1-0 Garhwal FC
A late, late strike goal by Munmun Lugun helped Mohammedan Sporting register a 1-0 win over Garhwal FC at the Kalyani Stadium.
The tournament favourites started out stronger, but was met with resolute Garhwal defence. Vanlalbiaa Chhangte was a thorn in the Garhwal defence as his crosses from the right had to be dealt with by the Delhi team.
At the other end, the long balls and counters by Garhwal barely threatened the Mohammedan goal. 0-0 at the break.
Mohammedan were presented with a chance to take the lead early in the second half when Gani Ahmed Nigam was brought down in the box by Garhwal goalkeeper, Sayak in the 65th minute.
Willis Plaza, the top scorer of the 2018-19 I-League campaign, stepped up to take the spot kick. The Trinidadian sent Sayak the wrong way, but hit the woodwork.
Seven minutes later, Plaza came close again. Substitute Faiaz’s cross from the left was met header powerfully by the striker, only to see the ball ricochet off the woodwork.
Garhwal nearly pulled off a win in the 88th minute. Uttam Rai was put through on goal by Victor, but Willis Plaza’s former strike partner at Churchill Brothers, shot wide.
In the 93rd minute of the match, Mohammedan’s left back, Munmun Lugun, broke the deadlock.
With the Garhwal defence clearing their lines, the former Punjab FC defender drifted into the opposition half. His left footed shot from 25 yards dipped just enough to find the space between the goalkeeper’s outstretched palms and the crossbar.
Pandemonium ensued as Yan Law’s men managed to seize all three points to start the campaign on the front foot.
The next round of matches will see ARA FC start their campaign against Mohammedan SC, while Garhwal FC and Bengaluru United will aim to chalk up their first points of the campaign.
Hero I-League Qualifiers 2020 Table
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Bhawanipore FC 2-0 FC Bengaluru United [A tactical overview of the game by our analyst Shlok]
Bhawanipore did well to stick to their plan. While defending they shifted between a 4-4-1-1 and a 4-1-4-1 depending on where the ball was. Offered very little space between the lines and forced FCBU to go long or wide.
I noticed an interesting pressing pattern they used in this case. When Amey Ranawade had the ball at RB, Bpore’s left mid fell back for cover and adjah, the CAM and LCM went wide to press. Not only did this prevent FCBU from pushing their RB ahead, but it also lead to turnovers