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I-League Qualifier: Bhawanipore FC survive late scare, stay in race with Mohammedan Sporting

I-League Qualifier: Bhawanipore FC survive late scare, stay in race with Mohammedan Sporting

Sayan Chatterjee

Published: 14 Oct 2020 4:33 PM GMT

Kolkata outfit Bhawanipore FC beat Delhi-based Garhwal FC 2-1 in the fifth match of the I-League qualifiers at the Salt Lake stadium in Kolkata on Wednesday. After their victory against FC Bengaluru United on the opening day of the tournament, today’s win ensured that Sankarlal Charaborty’s team stays unbeaten as they now breathe down the neck of Mohammedan SC, who sit top of the table on goal difference.

The match was a cagey affair in the first five minutes with the pattern of play evident for all to see. Garhwal FC, who had lost their first match against Mohammedan, needed to win this match to stay in the tournament and were trying to keep possession and attack Bhawanipore down the middle. Bhawanipore on the other hand seemed to be trying to hold their shape and play on the counter by utilizing the speed and guile of Anup Raj and Pankaj Moula on either flank.

The first goal came against the run of play though after miscommunication in the Garhwal defensive ranks allowed a simple floated ball from Arijit Bagui on the left to find Philip Adjah open and through on goal. The Ghanaian took his time and slotted the ball past goalkeeper Sayak Barai (1-0). The Bhawanipore midfielders slowly started taking control of the game with Gopi Singh, Subhankar Das and Altamash Sayed able to break Garhwal attacks and finding teammates further forward at will. One such move saw Gopi shoot wide from just outside the box while on another occasion, he almost found Adjah in front of goal with an intelligent dink before Garhwal’s Neeraj Bhandari made a timely interception.

It wasn’t until the 17th minute that Garhwal managed their first big chance when a close range shot from captain Bala Al Hassan went sailing over the goal. Bhawanipore created a number of opportunities thereafter, with their midfielders bombing forward and creating overloads on either flank. Adjah found himself in promising positions on a number of occasions but his shooting let him down every time. A close penalty shout notwithstanding, the Garhwal defence had done enough to restrict the half-time score to 1-0, especially Gagandeep Singh who made a number of goal-saving tackles.

However, Bhawanipore’s efforts were ultimately rewarded at the start of the second half when Anup’s measured cross from the left found an open Pankaj Moula at the far post who headed in superbly (2-0). At this point, it looked like it was going to be a canter for Bhawanipore as the Garhwali shoulders started to drop. Substitute Supriyo Pandit who had come on Gopi Singh went on a number of marauding runs down the right, dribbling past defenders at will and even troubling the goalkeeper on one occasion.

Soon after, Jiten Murmu was brought on for Pankaj and the experienced campaigner took no time to settle down into his team’s passing rhythm, contributing in a number of aesthetically pleasing passing moves also involving Adjah, Supriyo and Anup. Then, in the 76th minute, a move originated down the right for Garhwal and after some good work from right-back Rahul Das, the ball fell to Mahip Adhikari whose attempted back volley seemed to go out for a goal kick. Except that it did not, and Rahul was able to deliver a vicious cross in for substitute striker Afdal Varikkodan to score from 5 yards (2-1).

The Garhwal goal seemed to energize the team as they tried to attack Bhawanipore and the game became end-to-end. Chances fell to both sides but neither team could find another goal as the game eventually came to a gradual end. After the match, Bhawanipore FC coach Sankarlal Chakraborty stressed on the importance of rest and recovery for his team as they prepare to encounter Mohammedan in three days’ time while Garhwal FC coach Vikas Rawat was more focused on developing his players further amidst the steep learning curve that his boys have been put through.

FC Bengaluru United score late equalizer

The sixth match of the I-League qualifiers saw FC Bengaluru United square off against Ahmedabad-based side ARA FC at the Kalyani stadium. What was a closely fought encounter ended in a 1-1 draw after Bengaluru managed to score a 95th minute penalty to neutralize ARA’s first half opener.

It was largely a battle between the two midfields in the first half as neither team was able to play the all-important final ball. ARA FC had their first decent move when goalkeeper Melroy Fernandes released striker Stanley Eze down the left with his through ball almost finding Cedric Fernandes, only for FCBU goalkeeper Kunzang Bhutia to snuff out the danger. Eze wasted another good opportunity to put his team in front in the 11th minute when his free-kick from close range failed to trouble Bhutia at goal. He was involved again when his neatly laid off pass for Cedric resulted in a deflected shot from the midfielder resulting in a corner.

Bengaluru United had a period of dominance thereafter, with Amey Ranawade making rapid inroads down the right and ably supported by captain for the day Azharuddin Mallick. On one such occasion, Amey put in a tidy pass inside for Azhar, who beat the first defender, took it on his left but could only manage a scuffed shot at goal. The deadlock was finally broken in the 36th minute.

After some good work down the right from Sreekuttan VS, his pass for Karthik Swamy was blocked and the loose ball fell for Pratik Swami. Pratik, who is back after a long injury hiatus, cut inside and shot with his right and the ball went in via a deflection from Amey Ranawade (1-0). The first half saw both the teams having 7 shots at goal but only 3 were on target from FCBU while ARA’s solitary effort on target resulted in the goal.


It was much of the same in the second half. Bengaluru tried opening up the ARA defence with some intricate passing but was thwarted every time by some strong defending from ARA captain Surajit Seal. Eventually, William Opoku was able to carve out a good chance in the 54th minute when he dribbled past two defenders down the right and shot at goal only to see the ball go over the top of the goal. The Ghanaian had another opportunity soon after but he again shot wide from Amey’s pass.

ARA FC made a host of chances and were looking to protect their lead resulting in Bengaluru seeing much of the ball. A long throw from Amey was met with by Robert Primus but his glancing header went across goal without troubling the goalkeeper. ARA substitute Shoaib Ahmed then tried to make something out of nothing but his 25 yarder was wide off the mark as well. Finally, with just one minute left in stoppage time, a long ball down the right found Opoku in space who reached the ball ahead of the goalkeeper and induced a penalty-worthy tackle from him. Mohammad Asrar Rehber slotted home the resulting spot-kick (1-1).

With just a match left for Bengaluru United, it was a vital point that they managed to restore from today’s fixture before facing table-toppers Mohammedan SC six days from now. For ARA FC though, there still needs to be much improvement as they try to prove their mettle after the thumping against Mohammedan and today’s demoralising draw. The final two match-days now become all the more interesting as we reach the business end of the tournament.

With just two matchdays left till we find out the eventual winners, the I-League qualifiers are heating up and how!

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