BENGALURU FC were in fine form in their first home game of the I-League season, snatching a 3-0 win over a hapless Shillong Lajong thanks to an impressive brace from their new North Korean striker Kim Seng-yong.
While the visitors fielded the same starting line-up that got them a draw against Mumbai FC back home, Bengaluru FC had made three changes to their first eleven. Keegan Pereira, Thoi Singh and Udanta Singh were benched to make way for Lalcchuanmawia, Malsawmzuala and Alwyn George.
The Federation Cup winners celebrated their first league home match since 31st May in style by scoring a goal within the very first minute. Kim Seng-yong received a long ball from John Johnson with his hest and sent it in the path of Alwyn George, who forwarded it to C.K. Vineeth. The finishing was precise, and Shillong Lajong were trailing even before their players had properly warmed up. It was 1-0 to Bengaluru FC in just 40 seconds.
Lajong's Brazilian attacker Fabio Pena led an onslaught in reply, getting past Curtis Osano with a turn and finding himself face to face with keeper Lalthuammawia Ralte. But his left-footed finish wasn't up to the mark and it went straight to the keeper.
Eugeneson Lyngdoh came into the act, collecting a botched clearance attempt and taking a crack at the goal. But Lajong keeper Vishal Kaith was there to grab it.
Bengaluru FC kept on attacking. Vineeth set Alwyn up for a shot from very close range but the latter sent it wide. Then captain Sunil Chhetri got a shot that Kaith had to dive full-stretch to get a touch on. It went out for a corner.
Lajong looked decidedly out of depth. They were defending desperately and having a hard time trying to stop the Bengaluru FC wingers. Still their other Brazilian striker Uilliams got a lucky opening when John Johnson slipped and fell. But the forward wasted the opportunity with a weak shot.
And then Bengaluru FC scored again. It was the North Korean forward Kim Seng-yong. Curtis Osano sent in a free-kick that Vineeth sent to Eugeneson, who selflessly passed it to Kim who had an open net ahead. The finish was easy and the lead was doubled. 2-0.
Under pressure, Lajong were not doing well. Their captain Aiborlang Khongjee took down Alwyn George quite aggressively and picked up a booking. Then Penn Orji pushed ahead, setting up Rupert Nongrum who made a mess of the chance.
Towards the end of the first half Bengaluru almost scored again: Eugeneson delivered a corner that John Johnson headed in but it came off the post. The match reached the halfway pause with the scoreline still reading 2-0.
At the start of the second half Alwyn George picked up a yellow for a foul on Uilliams. But it didn't take long for Bengaluru FC to find the net again.
Sunil Chhetri ran up and fed Kim Seng-yong, who duly slammed it into the net in a move where the Lajong defender seemed to have lost their way around the pitch.
By now the visitors seemed to have accepted their fate and were content to try to limit the damage. Bengaluru FC, too, were happily taking it slow, knowing that 3 decent points were safely in the bag. Eugeneson got a shot in from Rino Anto's cross, but it wasn't on target.
Towards the end Kim Seng-yong almost secured a hat-trick. Sunil Chhetri sent in a brilliant pass that Kim put a powerful shot on, but it came off the post.
In the end the 3-0 margin was enough. Bengaluru FC celebrated their homecoming in style, grabbing the biggest win of their campaign yet, and going to the top of the table with a perfect 9 points from 3 matches. It's the best possible way they could have gotten things in order before making the ever-tricky trip to Cooperage Stadium to take on Mumbai FC on Wednesday.
For Shillong Lajong, while a defeat was hardly a surprise, there is massive cause for concern by the way their defenders were outrun, out-maneuvred and outplayed tonight. With just 1 point from 2 matches, they now sit 8th on the league table, just a gasp away from the relegation spot. And it's the bottom-table Salgaocar FC that they take on this Thursday. Head coach Thangboi Singto will have to address the issues at the back to ensure no upset sends them to the rock-bottom on that day.