Former champions Bengaluru FC survived a stern Odisha FC test on Monday to keep their faint hopes of making the Indian Super League (ISL) 2021-22 play-off hopes alive. (More Football News)
The 2018-19 champions conceded an early goal then fought back to beat Odisha FC 2-1 in a must-win game. This was Bengaluru's first win in three matches.
The win at Athletic Stadium in Panaji helped Marco Pezzaiuoli's men move to fifth place in the ISL table with 26 points from 18 matches. But to make the semis, Bengaluru still need to win all their remaining matches and pray for other teams to drop points.
As things stand now, Hyderabad FC are at the top of the table with 32 points from 17 matches, followed by Jamshedpur FC (31), ATK Mohun Bagan (30) and Bengaluru FC and Kerala Blasters (27) from 16 matches each.
Odisha FC, winless in three outings and second defeat in five outings, will need a miracle of sorts to make the last four. They have 22 points from 18 matches. They can only have a maximum of 28 points.
Odisha's Nandhakumar Sekar (8’) pounced on a loose ball to score early in the game but Danish Farooq’s (31’) header levelled the score. Cleiton Silva (49’) scored from the penalty spot in the second half, which eventually separated the two teams.
Both teams began on a strong note, creating decent scoring opportunities.
Bengaluru's Bruno Ramires came close to scoring inside five minutes but his long-ranger swerved narrowly past the target. But Odisha FC took the lead.
Another Brazilian, Jonathas Cristian de Jesus found space behind the BFC backline but saw his shot saved by Lara Sharma. Unfortunately for the Blues, the rebound fell to Sekar, who sent his team into an early lead.
The equaliser arrived soon as Farooq scored with a header from Roshan Naorem’s corner at the half-hour mark.
Kamaljit Singh misjudged the flight of the ball that gave the midfielder a free-header on the far post, leading to the goal.
The first half had an eventful end with Sekar coming up one-on-one with the goalkeeper. But, the Odisha winger could only manage to hit the side netting after dodging the advancing Sharma, failing to score a second.
The second half started on a poor note for the Kalinga Warriors as they gave away a penalty inside the first few minutes of the restart after Udanta Kumam was tripped inside the box.
Silva took the spot-kick and expertly sent the goalkeeper in the wrong direction to hand the lead to BFC.
Odisha’s quest for a second saw them make a few attacking substitutions, including the introduction of Spaniard Aridai Cabrera.
But Bengaluru FC defended resiliently in the final stages of the match.
Odisha FC’s next outing will be against top-four contenders ATK Mohun Bagan at the Tilak Maidan Stadium on Thursday whereas Bengaluru FC also play the Mariners next at the PJN Stadium on Sunday.
Odisha play Jamshedpur in the final league game on March 4. Bengaluru's league stage ends with a clash against East Bengal on March 5.