Bheke header lands BFC the title

Bheke header lands BFC the title

BLUES ARE THE BEST: Bengaluru FC players celebrate with the trophy after beating FC Goa FC in the ISL final in Mumbai on Sunday. BFC won 1-0 for the maiden title. PTI

It was just meant to be. Bengaluru FC (BFC), by far the most dominant side in the Indian Super League (ISL), were crowned champions for the first time on Sunday.

BFC, having beaten Goa twice in the league stage, showed grit and determination to eke out a 1-0 win in the final at the well-attended Mumbai Football Arena here.

After 90 minutes of breath-taking action, the clash was finally settled in the extra-time after Rahul Bheke netted the winner. The defender, left unmarked in the box, rose high to stunningly head home a Dimas Delgado’s corner in the 118th minute. Goa goalkeeper Naveen Kumar, despite being at full stretch, fell short, as the ball struck the inside of the far post before finding its way past in, much to the delight of the 900-odd travelling BFC fans.

Goa were forced to play with a man down after Ahmed Jahouh received his second yellow in the 105th minute for a foul on BFC forward Miku. The midfielder was adjudged guilty for kicking the Venezuelan in the stomach. He was already in the referee’s book for nudging Xisco Hernandez from the back in the 47th minute.

BFC fielded the same squad that registered a memorable comeback win over NorthEast United FC in the semifinal second leg in Bengaluru.

Xisco took the midfield alongside Delgado while Bheke joined Juanan at the back in the place of Albert Serran, who stayed at the bench. Harmanjot Khabra returned at the right back position.

Goa, too had similar line-up, with ISL top scorer Ferran Corominas leading the attack and Jackichand Singh and Brandon Fernandes on the wings. Edu Bedia and Ahmed Jahouh were in the middle while Mandar Rao Desai marshalled the defence.

With both the sides eager to end their title-drought, the game began in a frenetic manner. As expected, it was BFC, who made the early running with Goa goalkeeper making a brave save to deny Miku in the 6th minute. The Venezuelan dribbled past three defenders to enter the box, but his final touch was a little too heavy, which gave Naveen a chance to surge ahead and collect the ball.

Goa made a rare attempt at goal in the 14th minute after Jahouh found Jackichand on the right flank. The winger dribbled towards the box before sending in a cross to the onrushing Corominas at the far post. The Spaniard went for the volley but failed to hit on target.

Goa received a huge blow in the first minute of the added time (45+1) in the first period. Their skipper Mandar had to leave the field after he suffered, in what appeared to be a hamstring injury. He was replaced by Saviour Gama.

Despite a flurry of chances created by both the teams the first-half remained goalless.

Goa came out all guns blazing after the break but lacked the final finish, and almost paid heavily for it after Miku came strikingly close to opening the scoring.

In the 81st minute, Udanta’s cross from the right found Sunil Chhetri, who chested the ball towards Xisco. The midfielder cleverly sent Miku through with a beautiful back-heel with only the Goa goalkeper to beat. The forward poked it towards the net, Naveen was beaten but the far post came to their rescue.

Although both the sides went looking for the breakthrough, neither of them were able to do it as referee blew the whistle to end the regulation period