Durand Cup 2021: Leon stars as Bengaluru FC score 5 goals in comeback win

Bengaluru FC will face Army Green in the quarterfinals of the Durand Cup 2021. Image Credit:
Bengaluru FC will face Army Green in the quarterfinals of the Durand Cup 2021. Image Credit:
Tanay Apte

Bengaluru FC capped off a remarkable second half come-back to defeat Indian Navy 5-3 in a Group C game at the Durand Cup 2021. Trailing 0-2 at half-time, the Blues scored five goals in the second half to enter the quarterfinals as group winners.

Indian Navy dominated the first half and scored two well-taken goals. But Leon Augustine’s introduction in the second half turned the game on its head. The forward scored the first and set up the equalizer for Harmanpreet Singh, who went on to grab another goal later.

The match started brightly and the first chance fell to Indian Navy in the 2nd minute. A free-kick near the corner flag was whipped in by Britto PM and defender Abhishek Joshy almost scored with a header.

Both teams then had penalty appeals turned down. Bengaluru FC asked for a handball from their long-throw into the box but the referee declined. Indian Navy forward Muhammed Inayath felt he was fouled after driving into the penalty area, but only a corner was given.

The deadlock was then broken in superb fashion and it came from an Indian Navy set-piece in the 19th minute. Bengaluru FC goalkeeper Lara Sharma did not deal properly with a corner and the ball rolled out to Jijo. The right-back volleyed it first-time and it went through the crowd into the back of the net.

Bengaluru FC had a great chance to level the game five minutes later but forward Siva Sakthi blazed over from Harmanpreet’s cut-back.

On the half-hour mark, Indian Navy doubled their lead through forward Sreyas VG. Bengaluru FC failed to deal with a simple ball over the top and Sreyas ran onto it before coolly slotting it past Lara.

Leon leads Bengaluru FC fightback

A smarting Bengaluru FC came out all guns blazing in the second half and substitute Leon Augustine was at the heart of it all.

The 22-year-old missed his first chance as he won the ball in the Indian Navy penalty box and beat the oncoming defender. But he fluffed his lines as goalkeeper Bhaskar Roy rushed him down in the 51st minute.

Two minutes later, Leon made no mistake after another error at the back. The Indian Navy defense were caught out again trying to play out from the back, and Leon scored to halve the deficit.

Bengaluru FC almost equalized a minute later as Leon burst through on the right. But his cross to find Harmanpreet was intercepted by Bhaskar.

On the hour mark, those two combined again as Leon sent a left-footed diagonal to Harmanpreet. The 20-year-old from Punjab finished clinically past an oncoming Bhaskar to level the match at 2-2.

In the 74th minute, midfielder Biswa Darjee picked up the ball in the center of the park and went on a mazy run. He dribbled past two challenges before being brought down in the box and Bengaluru FC were awarded a penalty. Ajay Chhetri stepped up to convert the spot-kick and give his team the lead for the first time in the match.

The Blues were not done yet. They took full advantage of the gaps in defense as Indian Navy chased an equalizer. In the 81st minute, Harmanpreet got his second of the game after being sent through for a one-on-one and effectively killed off the game.

Teenager Thoi Singh also got in on the act in injury time. A searing run and cross by Siva found fellow substitute Bekey Oram in the box. Oram turned his man, sat the keeper down and fed Thoi, who made no mistake, hitting Bengaluru FC’s fifth of the game.

The Indian Navy also scored a consolation goal in the end as Sarbhjit Singh’s cross was smashed in by substitute Vijay.

The young Bengaluru FC side showed their character after going into the break trailing. They will now take on Army Green in the quarterfinals of the Durand Cup 2021 on September 25.

Edited by S Chowdhury
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