A tough night at the Kanteerava Stadium saw the Highlanders go down 2-1 to Bengaluru FC despite being dominant in all departments throughout the game in a profligate night scotching our chances to secure all three points.
We had numerous chances across both halves but failed to convert them as The Blues seized the opportunity to pick up two goals to hand us a bitter defeat in hotly contested game.
A game of contrasting odds, a game of chances galore that reflected imprudent goalmouth wastefulness added with great possessional play to outclass a quality side, yet to end up on a losing side marked a difficult night for us.
The strange night in Bengaluru would be a tough pill to swallow for us as the Highlanders played with flair and freedom to bedazzle a famed side who looked ordinary for most part of the game.
Unstable to start with, NEUFC defence acquired sturdiness as the game unravelled. But we were unfortunate to chase the game very early after conceding from an own goal as Mislav turned the ball in his own net.
The well-taken training ground drill foxed the backline as Mislav fired the ball in his own net as Udanta dangerously whipped the ball from 8 yards inside the box.
Far from impressed, the boys clearly felt this represented painful pedantry on the part of the referee, with their dismay only intensifying when Mato was booked in the 28th minute for an innocuous-looking interception.
Udanta came close to scoring in the 33rd minute after being headed down by Paartalu in the box, but the diagonal shot went narrowly wide of the target.
The best chance of the opening stages came in the 37th minute as Reagan Singh gave Bengaluru FC a counter-attacking fright as he found himself with space on the wings and his flash shot missed the target narrowly. The pressure mounted as Bengaluru FC’s backline was on the ropes. The incessant pressure led to a string of corners and Mato’s towering header forced Gurpreet to pull off a one-handed save to deny us an early equalizer.
As we swarmed forward trying to steal an equalizer, Ogbeche found himself in space in the 43rd minute after being released by Gallego with a brilliant through ball but Albert Serran was able to check the Highlander forward to avert the danger and forced our talisman striker to stray wide from the goalmouth.
Bengaluru FC looked intimidated to play and dished out the long ball to their forward without their usual build-up play as we dominated the possession and passing.
In the 48th minute, Mislav had the opportunity to make amends and found himself in a good shooting position but blasted it wide and was subsequently forced to limp off with an injury.
The injury forced us to substitute injured Mislav with Triadis as Leudo slotted into the back four.
Back in the second half, as we went forward with a potent attacking trio of Ogbeche, Gallego and Triadis, supported by Redeem and Puitea from the wings, Bengaluru FC’s backline seemed to be wilted under tremendous pressure. There was a subtle switch of style for the Highlanders in the second half, a little beam of confidence and more players committed to the counter-attacks that were rare before the break.
We came closer and closer with every passing minute but failed to bury the ball in the back of the net, while Bart came close to scoring in the 58th-minute corner, his diving header was again saved by the goalkeeper.
The pressure finally paid off in the 61st minute, Gallego outran Juanan with his blistering pace into the box to follow a ball that came from deep and calmly slotted the ball through the legs of Gurpreet to make it 1-1.
With the scored levelled at 1-1, we could have killed the game in the 63rd minute when Ogbeche found himself in another glorious one-on-one position to put us ahead in the game, but the grounder went straight to the keeper denying us an opportunity to choke the game by the scruff of its neck.
As we were being wasteful and on a self-destructive mode squandering chances repeatedly, the best chance of the half fell to Triadis in the 68th minute. He managed to beat the offside trap taking advantage of the Blues playing a high line of defence and found Gurpreet at his mercy in a one on one situation but hit it straight at the keeper to hint the structuring of yet another frustrating night for us.
As we looked good controlling the game and created chances repeatedly, completely against the run of play substitute, Chencho Gyaltsen, added to our misery by scoring his second goal against us near the far post after being headed on by Paartalu from the throw-in in the 71st minute.
Chasing the game under the unlikely situation where we were dominating end to end, Coach Eelco threw in every tactical move that he could by bringing on Keegan Pereira in place of Robert and Juan Mascia in for Leudo as the Highlanders went all out to salvage a point.
Just one effort on goal and one on target, The Blue’s forays might have been few but, unlike us, they made the most of them as the rub of the green favoured the home team as they held on to a slender 2-1 lead.
A frustrating night to go down 2-1 at the Kanteerava as we stay put in third place on the table having played a game more. Coach Eelco would be looking to regroup and restructure the team as we encounter Delhi Dynamos at home on 7th February 2019 as the battle for a playoff spot continues.