Bengaluru FC edge past Odisha FC to keep semi-final hopes alive

Bengaluru FC all but ended Odisha FC's semi-final hopes but gave a boost to their own ambitions of making the last four ss they beat Odisha FC 2-1 at the Athletic Stadium in Bambolim, Goa to go fifth on the Hero Indian Super League (ISL) standings table on Monday.

Nandhakumar Kekar's (8') early opener was cancelled out by Danish Farooq (31') before Cleiton Silva (49' pen) converted from the spot before the Blues held on to pick up crucial three points.

Marco Pezzaiuoli’s side started the better of the two teams, bossing the possession and creating chances, the first of which fell to Bruno Ramires who already has two assists to his name this season. Udanta Singh played the Brazilian through on the right side but he couldn’t keep his shot on target in the 6th minute.

However, Odisha FC began finding openings and broke through in the 8th minute when the rebound from Jonathas' shot found Nandhakumar inside the six-yard area. The Indian winger steadied himself before drilling his finish past the goalkeeper into the goal.

Five minutes later, Javi Hernandez showed his strength and skill as he escaped his marker with a clever turn but couldn’t keep his effort on target.

The Blues had a response after the early Odisha FC goal and Prince Ibara was inches away from equalising when he took a shot from inside the box in the 24th minute, but the 26-years old forward shot wide.

A minute before the drinks break, Bengaluru FC was able to draw level when the Blues won a corner and Roshan Singh delivered the ball inside the box that found Farooq at the back. The Indian midfielder nodded a powerful header from the close range and brought his team back into the game.

In the 37th minute of the match, the Blues had a chance to take the lead, when Farooq created a brilliant defense-splitting through ball for Silva. But the he failed to get the hold of the ball.

Just before the half-time whistle, Nandhakumar could have restored Odisha's lead when Hernandez put in a perfect through ball for him but the latter took an extra touch to take it wide on his left foot instead of perhaps going for it in the first time. This 26-year winger eventually shot into the side netting.

The game was 1-1 level at the break after a half that was dominated by the Blues but the better chances had fallen Odisha FC’s way.

After the second half resumed, Bengaluru FC made the intentions clear as the Blues continued to dominate the ball and were eventually rewarded in the 49th minute when Lalruathhara, fouled Udanta inside their box. The Blues top goal scorer, Silva, took the spot-kick and gave the all-important lead to his team.

The early second-half goal gave Blues the boost, as they continued to breach the Odisha FC defense. In the 53rd minute, Pezzaiuoli’s men missed an opportunity of scoring the third goal when Ibara took a shot inside the box but it was blocked by the Odisha FC goalkeeper Kamaljit Singh.

Fresh pairs legs were introduced in the 61st minute of the match by both the coaches, as Ibara and Namgyal Bhutia were replaced by Sunil Chhetri and Yaya Banana for BFC. While OFC introduced Aridai Cabrera and Gaurav Bora in place of Nandhakumar and Victor Mongil.

Garcia’s men kept on looking for the equaliser and they came close to scoring it in the 84th minute when an excellent delivery from Suarez created a scoring opportunity for Hernandez. The Spanish midfielder headed the ball but that went straight into the goalkeeper Lara Sharma’s hand.

Bengaluru FC however held on to their one-goal lead at the full time. This result takes Pezzaiuoli’s men to fifth in the Hero ISL table. On the other hand, this defeat has all but ended Odisha FC's semi-final hopes as they remain seventh on the points table.

The Blues next face ATK Mohun Bagan on Sunday while Odisha FC takes on ATKMB on Thursday.

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