Group E was turned on its head yesterday as New Radiant beat a strong Bengaluru side that seemed somewhat out of sorts. During the preview for the game, I remarked that Bengaluru should win if Chhetri played and when I saw on him on the teamsheet, I had no doubt in my mind that the ‘Blues’ would come away with three points.

New Radiant Are Now In Control

For whatever reason that didn’t happen which not only put another black mark against my name but more importantly, it put New Radiant in control of Group E.

Before we come onto that game, let’s take a look at the other game in the group where Abahani Dhaka looked to complete the double over I-League side, Aizawl. Prior to this, Aizawl were pointless and were comfortably beaten by Abahani in the reverse fixture not too long ago.

When Emeka Onuoha gave Abahani the lead from the spot in the first-half, I began to fear the worst. Nonetheless, they dug in and Andrei Ionescu rescued a point for them as he fired away from close range midway through the second period.

That was how it ended and it meant that Aizawl’s dream was over, although it would’ve taken a miracle for them to qualify. Abahani have to win both their remaining games to stand any chance of qualifying which let’s be honest, isn’t going to happen.

Bengaluru Were At Pretty Much Full-Strength

Now onto the main event. With the exception of the keeper, Bengaluru were at full-strength and when you take into account that Gurpreet has blown hot & cold recently, it should go relatively well.

From the get-go, NRSC looked the more likely of the two as they knew going into the game that if they won by two clear goals, they’ll take top spot from the recently-crowned Super Cup winners.

You couldn’t even say the warning signs weren’t there as Ali Ashfaq should’ve really done better when he was one-on-one with Gurpreet’s deputy, Ralte, however, he scuffed his effort wide to let Bengaluru off the hook. By the time thirty minutes was on the clock, we had a goal as Ali Ashfaq played a superb through ball to Ali Fasir who still had a lot to do.

Ralte, in the Bengaluru goal, made Fasir’s mind up for him as he came rushing off his line to close him down which meant that all Fasir had to do was slide it beyond him and he did so with ease.

Ralte Should’ve Stayed On His Line

Part of me understands why Ralte came rushing off his line and part of me thinks what an idiot. Watch it and then question what you would have done. It’s a tricky one.

Minutes later, Bengaluru had a big chance. It fell to the one man you would want it to as well as Victor Perez played in Sunil Chhetri who has been on fire in recent weeks, scrap that, recent months.

He hit it under the keeper, though, it was one of those where Imran Mohamed in the NRSC goal managed to get something on it which ensured that it didn’t have enough to go in. The defence then mopped up and the chance was gone.

At the interval, it was all level in terms of the league table. New Radiant were looking the more fired up of the two and the videos of Bengaluru playing foot tennis in the build-up to the game looked like they were coming back to bite them on the arse.

Ali Ashfaq Took Full Advantage Of Bheke’s Error

Bengaluru couldn’t last three minutes before NRSC doubled their lead and leapfrogged them to the top of the group. Rahul Bheke had an absolute mare as he tried to trap the ball, it went under his foot and Ali Ashfaq was in the clear.

It wasn’t much different to where Chhetri’s big chance was in the first-half, only this time, the outcome was in the favour of the attacking side as NRSC’s top scorer beat Ralte at his near post. I don’t want to seem like I’m picking on him because it’s not my style. It was shit keeping, though.

Despite the earliness of NRSC’s second-half goal, Bengaluru didn’t really threaten and it begs the question are they really bothered about the AFC Cup?

Roca Has Now Got His Work Cut Out

Roca not being in the dugout obviously made a huge difference and the ISL table-toppers are now having to rely on Aizawl or Abahani Dhaka doing them a favour against the Maldivian side and considering NRSC have already beaten them both once in the group stages, it would take a brave man to back against them qualifying from the position they’re in.

Next week sees New Radiant host Abahani while Aizawl travel to Bengaluru. Two home wins, you’d think. More on that next Thursday. Now to cover the rest of the groups…

Until the next time.