Vasco, Goa: Marco Pezzaiuoli and Bengaluru FC tasted defeat for the first time in their 2021-22 Indian Super League campaign, with a 3-1 loss to Odisha FC at the TIlak Maidan, in Vasco, on Wednesday. Javi Hernandez scored the hosts’ opener just three minutes in, only for Alan Costa to nod home an equaliser to bring the Blues level. However, the Spaniard added another in the second half to reclaim Odisha’s lead as striker Aridai Cabrera came off the bench to seal the points for Kiko Ramirez-coached side.
Earlier, Pezzaiuoli handed Congolese striker Prince Ibara a start after the Congolese scored on debut against NorthEast United, as Cleiton Silva dropped to the bench. In another shuffle, Naorem Roshan Singh replaced Ajith Kumar at right-back.
The Blues were pegged back with only three minutes on the clock when Gurpreet Singh Sandhu’s miscued clearance fell to Javi Hernandez. The Spanish midfielder made no mistake, clipping a shot over the Bengaluru custodian from distance to give his side the lead. Bengaluru grew into the game and had attempts from Ibara and Udanta Singh saved by Kamaljit before restoring parity in the 21st minute from a set-piece.
Having won a corner through one of many attacks in their attempt to find an equalizer, Roshan’s delivery was aimed at Brazilian midfielder Alan Costa, who climbed highest to nod home. Pezzaiuoli’s side had an opportunity to take the lead just moments later, but Ibara failed to poke home from Roshan’s free-kick at the far post.
Pezzaiuoli was forced into making a change with Jayesh Rane unable to continue following an aerial collision, as Danish Farooq replaced him ahead of the break. Bengaluru began strongly in the second period with Udanta and Ibara finding space in the box but against the run of play, it was the hosts who reclaimed their lead.
Following a wayward pass that found opposition striker Jonathas, Udanta’s tackle on the Brazilian prompted referee Venkatesh R to hand Odisha a free-kick. Hernandez dispatched the set-piece past the reach of Sandhu only six minutes into the second period to make it 2-1. Pezzaiuoli rang in three more changes just shy of the hour mark as Cleiton Silva, Pratik Chaudhari and Sarthak Golui replaced Ashique, Udanta and Musavu-King.
Silva’s impact was instant, as the Brazilian won the Blues a penalty just five minutes later, latching on to a pass from Danish to draw a foul from Hendry Antonay inside the box. However, Bengaluru’s chance to restore parity went begging when Chhetri’s attempt from the spot was saved by Kamaljit for Silva to poke home on the rebound, albeit with the Brazilian having encroached the 18-yard box ahead of the skipper’s take.
Bengaluru continued to push forward, with Pezzaiuoli introducing Iranian midfielder Iman Basafa in place of Ramires for the final 20 minutes of the fixture. However, it was the hosts that managed to catch the Blues on the counter instead, as substitute striker Aridai Cabrera cut past Pratik Chaudhari to squeeze a shot through and make it 3-1, a scoreline Odisha would defend until the final whistle.
Bengaluru next face Kerala Blasters FC at the GMC Athletic Stadium, in Bambolim, on Sunday, 28 November.