FC Bengaluru United (FCBU) became the first team to make it to the knockout stages of the 130th Durand Cup, when they beat Indian Air Force 4-2 in a thrilling Group A encounter, at the Kalyani Stadium on Thursday. Spaniard Pedro Manzi was again the architect of victory, scoring two, his second and third of the tournament, and creating two for Yumnam Gopi Singh to score, as the spirited Airmen, who gave it their all and even dominated for large parts of the second half, crashed out with a game to go.
FCBU had beaten CRPF 1-0 in the first Group A game and now have a full six points from two games played, more than enough to make it to the quarters. The Indian Air Force had gone down 1-4 to Mohammedan Sporting, but today’s display was a much improved one from them.
In a sign of things to come, the Airmen had an early chance to go ahead in the very first minute of the game when Vivek found himself behind the FCBU defense and in the clear but he could not do justice.
Manzi scored his first from the spot in the 21st minute, when Air Force defender Davinder was ruled to have handled the ball inside the box. FCBU then doubled their advantage seven minutes later as Manzi now turned provider, finding Yumnam Gopi Singh with a fine ball to catch the Air Force defense napping. Gopi took one touch to go away from an onrushing Subhajit Basu in goal to calmly slot it past him.
Three minutes before the lemon break however, Vivek got one back for the Airmen as he latched on to a cross from the hard working Prabhjot, took a touch in the six-yard box to go past Kunzang Bhutia in the FCBU goal and slot home calmly.
That goal must have inspired the Airmen no end as they were a transformed team in the second-half dominating proceedings for a good half an hour. Vivek got his second of the game from a corner by Shahbaaz as he leapt above the FCBU defense to head past Bhutia and equalise.
Vivek then missed his hattrick several times including one just a minute after his second goal as Prabhjot, Saurav Sadhukan and himself missed a flurry of chances.
FCBU finally broke the deadlock in the 72nd minute as the same Manzi-Gopi combination struck again. Manzi then got his second of the game in injury time to ensure FCBU had no late jitters.
The final game of the Group will pit FCBU against Mohammedan Sporting while the latter take on CRPF in their second group game tomorrow at Kalyani.