AFC Cup: Bengaluru FC go down 2-1 to Lao Toyota in the opener
Vientiane, Laos: A late Bengaluru FC charge wasn't enough as Ashley Westwood's side went down 2-1 to Lao Toyota FC in their Group H opener of the AFC Cup, in Vientiane, on Wednesday.
Bengaluru found themselves a goal down in as early as the third minute through Kazuo Homma and a Phatthana Syvilay free-kick in the 35th minute made it 2-0 before half-time.
The second half sending off of defender Moukda Souksavath turned the tide towards Bengaluru, who pulled one back in the 91st minute through CK Vineeth but it was too little too late for the Blues who should have done better in the box.
Earlier, Westwood, missing skipper Sunil Chhetri with an injury, started with Kim Song Yong, CK Vineeth, and Beikhokhei Beingaichho in attack.
But before the Blues could settle down and string together a rhythm, Lao Toyota capitalised on a defensive lapse to grab the lead. Squirming out of the box from a muddle, Curtis Osano had the ball stolen from his feet by Itsuki Yamada who slid in the experienced Homma through and the seasoned Japanese striker obliged with the simplest of finishes.
But despite the early hiccup, Bengaluru regrouped rather quickly and had a couple of half-chances. Being picked out by a pass from the middle, Vineeth beat the off-side trap before cutting back for Alwyn George who Bengaluru players thought was brought down before he could take a shot, but referee Yu Ming Hsun would have none of it.
Just when Bengaluru were getting into some sort of a groove, Lao landed a blow through a free-kick that the Blues needlessly conceded. It started when Ralte's attempt to pick out Alwyn was intercepted forcing the goalkeeper to charge out of his box to thwart the shot at goal.
However, the Blues were livid after the assistant referee raised his flag for a handball while the ball had struck Ralte square in the stomach. Hsun waived off the angry protests before booking Ralte and awarding Lao with a free-kick five yards outside the box that eventually lead to the goal.
Westwood effected two changes at half time, bringing on Udanta Singh and Malsawmzuala for Beikhokhei Beingaichho and Alwyn. The injection of pace down the right quickly began causing Lao trouble and Bengaluru could have had a goal in the 51st minute when Udanta slid Collins in, only for the midfielder to shoot straight at Lao 'keeper Vathana Keodouangdeth.
The red card in the 65th minute gave Bengaluru time to capitalise on the man advantage and Westwood soon introduced striker Daniel Lalhlimpuia who played his first game for Bengaluru, in the 70th minute.
The last twenty minutes was all Bengaluru FC where Kim, Collins, and Udanta, all had chances that they should have put away. The goal did come when Vineeth slid in down the left, lost his man and shot past Vathana in the first minute of additional time.
With four minutes of additional time to play for, Lalchhuanmawia had a flash at goal only to see it clip the shoulder of the post and fly out. A free-kick was the final throw of the dice for Bengaluru but the equaliser just wasn't meant to be.
The Blues return to the city where they host Aizawl FC on Sunday as action in the I-League resumes for Westwood's side.