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I-League: Bharat FC go down 1-2 to Royal Wahingdoh FC in engaging clash

Royal Wahingdoh got their third win in a row in their debut I-League campaign as they defeated Bharat FC 2-1.

Bharat FC’s marquee player Romuald Boco controlled play from the center of the field

Bharat FC endured an agonizing defeat against promoted side Royal Wahingdoh SC on Tuesday night at the Shree Shiv Chhatrapati Sports Complex, Mahalunge-Balewadi in a Hero I-League round 3 encounter. Bharat FC took the lead in the first half, managed to hold their lead going into the half-time break but were then undone by two goals in the space of five minutes in the second half. 

Kris Bright’s 16th minute goal was Bharat FC’s first ever goal in the Hero I-League. Bright tapped in after Romuald Boco’s header was meekly palmed away by Royal Wahingdoh FC custodian Nikhil Bernard. The side from Shillong drew parity in the 59th minute, scoring through South Korean striker Kim Song Yong before a Seityasen Singh goal in the 64th minute gave them the three points. Bharat FC has now collected one point from their first two games.

The home side started the game in rousing fashion with the re-engineered midfield providing the forwards with quite a few attacking options. Bharat FC’s marquee player, Romuald Boco, playing in an advanced midfield role was clearly the most influential player on the pitch as he consistently moved into good positions and also distributed the ball in very effective fashion.

Bobby Hassell, playing in a slightly withdrawn role, was also imperious as he linked up well with Boco to provide a constant supply of passes to Steven Dias and Subash Singh on the flanks.

With Bharat FC exerting sustained pressure, the first goal arrived in the 16th minute. A long punt from Arindam Bhattacharya found Hassell in the center of the pitch and a few deft touches later, the 34-year-old had found Subash Singh on the left wing in an inch of space.

Subash did well to wriggle away from the attentions of Reagan Singh and send in a curling cross. Boco who had timed his run to perfection managed to flick the header towards the far-post but goalkeeper Bernard parried the ball straight into the path of striker Kris Bright. The 28-year-old New Zealand international wasted no time, slotting the ball into the empty net. 

The goal seemed to have buoyed Bharat FC as a couple of minutes later, Bright unleashed a pile-driver from the edge of the box that thundered against the upright and ricocheted into the goalkeeper’s grateful arms. Bharat FC continued to create multiple chances with Steven Dias putting in a number of good crosses but Royal Wahingdoh FC managed to hang on.

The second half was an entirely different story as Royal Wahingdoh made a couple of substitutions, introducing their South Korean striker Yong. The switch seemed to have made immediate impact as Yong’s direct running and captain Densil Theobald’s imperious form as a withdrawn striker seemed to disconcert the Bharat FC defense. 

Young left-back Shahbas Saleel was introduced by Bharat FC head-coach Stuart Watkiss after the interval and it was the young full-back who found himself in a trap laid by Theobald and Yong. Having pushed Saleel forward, Theobald used the vacant space on the left to feed Yong. A quick interchange saw the South Korean move into the center of the box. Receiving the ball in the box, Yong took one touch and unleashed a powerful shot in the bottom right corner.

The second goal arrived just five minutes later, courtesy of another defensive lapse. Ravanan Dharmaraj and Saleel were unable to close down fleet footed winger Lallawnzuala on the left and the winger’s low cross found Seityasen Singh who made no mistake, sweeping the ball home. Bharat FC went all out, trying to find the equalizer but the Royal Wahingdoh FC defense held on.

In the second minute of injury time, Boco found himself in a yard of space on the left side of the Royal Wahingdoh FC box, nimbly cutting past a defender, the midfielder advanced into the box but saw his low drive blocked by a diving Bernard. Manjit Singh had a late chance when Subash Singh’s cross at the far-post allowed him a free-header but the 29-year-old’s downward header lacked the power to trouble Bernard.

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