Bengaluru ran out victors against the Royal Stags by a goal to nil the empty Kanteevra in the backdrop. Bengaluru FC playing their first competitive game under new manager Alberto Roca were very much the better side apart from ten minutes in the second half. The Singapore outfit were lucky that the game is alive for the second leg, as the Bengaluru players missed a host of chances at the death.
The man in the hot seat for Bengaluru Alberto Roca sprung his own surprise, he went with a 4-4-2 diamond formation from the beginning. Tampines on the other hand, went for a 4-1-4-1 formation, with former English youth international Jermaine Pennant starting just behind the target man Billy Mehmet.
It was apparent what Alberto Roca was working on in the six weeks he was the manager of the Blues, his side started better, keeping the ball well and frustrating the Singapore outfit. When they did get the breakthrough, it was a brilliant move. Sunil Chhetri slipped the ball to Alwyn George who had come in from the right, he was clean through, only for Izwan, the Tampines goalkeeper deny him, thankfully CK Vinneth was at hand to tap-in the rebound.
Tampines had their own chance of getting level two minutes later in the eleventh minute, Pennant who had failed to get into the game till then dropped back to get the ball and drive into the Bengaluru midfield and played a one-two with Bill at the edge of the box, the ball was eventually worked to Webb at the edge of the box, but his sidefoot went off the first bar into the side netting. That was Tampines' best move of the game, and Pennant's biggest contribution in the game.
The Bangalore outfit started having most of the ball again as the half went on, Watson especially impressive with the ball at his feet. Euegeneson though, considered by many as India's best midfielder was getting frustrated on the left, when Bengaluru shifted from a diamond to a flat 4-4-2
Euegeneson showed exactly what he is capable of when he finally had the chance to cut in and effect the game, in the 32nd minute, he picked up the ball and passed it wide to Rino Anto, whose cross was on the head of Chhetri and his knock down was straight at Eugene, but his shot was thwarted away by Izwan.
The second half, the away team started much better playing with tempo and crossing the ball into the box, and Bengaluru were in the doldrums for a while, with Webb and Pennant were attacking the starting left back Nishu, and Alberto soon changed him with Chhuantea, and the Blues slowly but surely regained confidence and possession.
Rino Anto and CK Vineeth were consistently Bengaluru's best players, with CK Vineeth proving to be a thorn for the Stags whenever a ball was played behind the defence. The last quarter was frantic, but Alberto's influence really started to show as Bangalore kept the ball, and had two or three real good chances to finish the tie in the first leg itself.
As things stand, the Royal Stags need to really pick up their game to compete against the Blues, but things are still really balanced between the two. The second leg is set to be played on the 21st at Singapore.
Post-match quotes to follow...Published 14 Sep 2016, 19:50 IST