Bengaluru FC edged past New Radiant in a drab AFC Cup 2018 Group E contest at the Kanteerava Stadium on Tuesday.
Nishu Kumar (90+1') turned up with a late winner to break the visitors' hearts. The win has helped the home team to gain a three-point lead at the top of Group E.
With a quarter-final fixture against NEROCA FC in the Super Cup scheduled in three days' time. Blues' head coach Albert Roca chose to field a heavily rotated starting lineup. Gurpreet Singh dropped to the bench and the Cup specialist Lalthuammawia Ralte started in between the sticks.
Erik Paartalu was given extra responsibility at the back and Daniel Segovia was chosen to lead the attack. Harmanjot Khabra returned from a long-term layoff to start the game. The likes of Sunil Chhetri, Victor Perez and Daniel Lalhlimpuia found a spot on the bench. For New Radiant, Ali Ashfaq, the hat-trick hero from their last group game, started up front.
In a 90-minute affair that failed to produce enough goalmouth action at both ends of the field, Bengaluru rang the first alarm bell in the 15th minute. Daniel Segovia was put through on goal and a desperate goalkeeper rushed off his line to force the ball off the forward's feet. The ball fell to Semboi whose shot had to be cleared off the line by Amiri.
Khabra latched onto a long punt out from the back by Ralte and delivered an accurate cross into the feet of Haokip at the half-hour mark. But the Manipur-born forward dragged his shot wide of the goal.
With just one shot on target in the first half and New Radiant holding firm at the back, Albert Roca turned to Sunil Chhetri who replaced Semboi after the hour-mark. The substituition changed the complexion of the match and had the desired impact.
Chheti was put through on goal with six minutes left on the clock but defender Angel barged into the Indian striker to take the ball away. The referee's nonchalance to what happened angered Roca on the sidelines and the coach was sent off.
A minute after regular time came Nishu Kumar's match-winner. Sunil Chhetri skipped past his marker and slide the ball through to Nishu who slotted past Imran to seal full points at home.