Bengaluru FC took on Paro FC in the first leg of the AFC Cup 2020 Preliminary Round 2 at the Changlimithang Stadium in Thimpu. Due to AFC restrictions, the Blues named a 30-man squad dominated by young Indian players, out of which 9 were from the Bengaluru B team. In the end though, the youngsters came through with a victory and it was a duly deserved one.
Right from the get-go, Bengaluru’s plan was to sit back and let Paro FC have possession. Erik Paartalu, as usual helped Bengaluru FC recycle possession and provide a strong defensive cover for the backline. With Chhetri on the bench, new signing Nili Perdomo, Naorem Roshan and Semboi Haokip formed the attacking trio for the away side. Manager Carles Cuadrat got his strategy spot on, with Bengaluru able to stay in shape and create openings while counter-attacking and from set-pieces. It was Juanan, who was making his 100th appearance for the club who went close in the 20th minute from a beautiful freekick but it was tipped over the bar by Togbay, Paro’s goalkeeper. In the third added-on minute, Nili’s freekick ricocheted off the crossbar as the sides went into the break with the score at 0-0.
As the second half resume, Bengaluru did not take long to take the lead and it was no more than what they deserved. The attacking trio was involved from the start to the finish, with Nili unleashing Roshan with his pass who set up a nice ball for Haokip to finish from a tight angle. In the 60th minute, an injury to the fantastic Naorem Roshan saw Sunil Chhetri come on in place of the youngster. The next 30 minutes saw Bengaluru do everything to contain their lead and deny Paro FC time or space on the ball to build a solid attack. Gurpreet Singh Sandhu was forced into action a couple of times but none of them were really that challenging for India’s number 1 and the game ended 1-0 in favor of the away side.
Bengaluru FC will take on Paro FC in the return leg on 12th February and having not only kept a clean sheet but also procured an away goal, they will be confident of seeing the Bhutanese side off at the Kanteerava and securing their spot in the AFC Cup group stage.