Bengaluru, Feb 28 (IANS) C.K. Vineeth scored the only goal of the game as Bengaluru FC kept their title chances alive with a 1-0 win over spirited Aizawl FC at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium here on Sunday.
Vineeth (48th minute) scored just after the break in a game which saw minnows Aizawl give a resilient performance against the former I-League champions.
Bengaluru are now at the second place on the I-league table with 18 points from nine matches, three behind defending champions and league leaders Mohun Bagan. Top division newcomers Aizawl remain at the seventh spot on the nine-team table with eight points.
Although Bengaluru dominated possession and created more scoring chances, the visitors also had several chances. But a combination of poor finishing and rugged defending prevented more goals from being scored.
Bengaluru coach Ashley Westwood made several changes to the team which had lost to Lao Toyota FC in an AFC Cup tie in Laos last Wednesday. Skipper Sunil Chhetri returned to the starting XI along with goalkeeper Amrinder Singh and Seminlen Doungel. Udanta Singh, Malsawmzuala and Keegan Pereira were also included in the starting line-up.
Beikhokei, Chuuantea, Alwyn George, Mawia, Kim Seong Yong and Shankar Sampingiraj were on the bench.
Aizawl made three changes of their own, bringing in Emmanuel Chigozie, Yuta Kinowaki and David Lalrinmuana on place of Lalchawnkima, Zoramthara and Malsawmtluanga.
Bengaluru dominated the first half, peppering the Aizawl defence with speedy attacks down both flanks.
The minnows caught the Bengaluru defence on the wrong foot with a pacy counter-attack in the seventh minute, but Albert Zohmingmawia’s goal bound attempt was parried by an outstretched Amrinder who managed to hold on to the ball.
In the very next minute, CK Vineeth had a left-footed effort go wide of the target at the other end.
There was a flurry of wasted chances from both teams till Alfred Jaryan almost scored for the Reds. His well-directed powerful header from a cross-in was calmly saved by Amrinder.
Both teams wasted several chances thereafter and Bengaluru will thank Amrinder for pulling of a couple of excellent saves as the teams went into the break locked at 0-0.
Vineeth brought the home crowd onto their feet after the resumption when he shook off his marker to head in a free-kick by Keegan Pereira at the near post.
To their credit, Aizawl continued to play a spirited game despite conceding the lead. They continued to hold off the Bengaluru attacks, while creating the occasional chance through counter-attacks. But both teams were unable to find the target.