A goal in either half, from Roy Krishna and Subhasish Bose, meant a first defeat for Bengaluru FC under Marco Pezzaiuoli, in the Group D opener of the 2021 AFC Cup, at the National Stadium, in Maldives, on Wednesday.
Marco Pezzaiuoli made two changes to the side that defeated Club Eagles, as Naorem Roshan Singh and Ajay Chhetri replaced Ashique Kuruniyan and Rohit Kumar. The Mariners, who had a busy summer transfer window, handed debuts to Amrinder Singh, Hugo Boumous and Deepak Tangri, while fellow new signings Liston Colaco, Bidyananda Singh, Ashutosh Mehta, Ricky John Shabong, Abhishek Suryavanshi and Kiyan Nassiri found themselves on the bench.
The Blues' first effort of the game came with just four minutes on the clock when Suresh Wangjam and Roshan combined down the left flank to find Cleiton Silva, who picked out an unmarked Jayesh Rane with space outside the area. The midfielder’s effort, however, sailed wide of the post.
ATK MB’s first real opportunity of the game came midway through the first half when Boumous broke free on a counter-attack, shrugged off a challenge from Wangjam and managed to get a shot on target. Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, however, got a strong hand to the strike and parried away.
Just past the half hour mark, the Mariners broke free again through Boumous, who played Krishna through down the left flank. The Fiji international’s attempted pass to David Williams was deflected into the Frenchman's path, whose effort was blocked away Gurpreet's outstretched leg. Antonio Habas’ side broke the deadlock in the 39th minute, with three foreign players combining. Carl McHugh's header from a Boumous corner was diverted goalward from point-blank range by Roy Krishna, past a hapless Gurpreet.
Looking to get back into the game, the Blues made a change at the break as Danish Farooq replaced Ajay Chhetri. However, the Mariners doubled their lead just moments after the restart, when Williams found Subhasish in the middle of the box, who turned to find space and smashed the ball low and into the far corner.
Bengaluru’s first chance of the second period came in the 52nd minute, when Cleiton Silva’s swerving effort from the edge of the box forced Amrinder into a good save after Roshan and Wangjam had combined once again in attack.
Leon Augustine, on as a substitute for skipper Sunil Chhetri, looked to make a mark, but his run in the 77th minute was cut short by Sumit Rathi, who picked up a yellow card for the challenge. Cleiton's effort from the resulting free-kick sailed off-target, without troubling Amrinder.
With ATK MB happy to sit back and defend their lead, the Blues threw men forward and dominated possession in the closing stages, but couldn’t find a way past the Mariners’ stubborn backline. Habas made further changes to his side as Bidyananda Singh and Liston Colaco made their bows, closing out what was a tough afternoon for the Blues in Asia.
The Blues will be back in action on August 21, when they take on Bashundhara Kings in their next group stage game, at the same venue.