Chhetri does it again for Bengaluru FC

Chhetri does it again for Bengaluru FC

Bengaluru FC skipper Sunil Chhetri and players celebrate after beating FC Goa at the Sree Kanteerava stadium in Bengaluru on Friday. DH Photo/ B H Shivakumar

They’ve got Sunil Chhetri, goes the Bengaluru FC faithfuls’ song. This was not a classic captain’s performance that we’ve come to expect of the 35-year-old. Nor was it one where Chhetri inspired the team with his moments of brilliance. This time, he was clinical. When his team, whose ambitions for the Asian Champions League needed the result the most, he stepped up. He always does.

A 2-1 win over table-toppers FC Goa at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium to reignite their Indian Super League campaign. A campaign in which they lost their first home game in the league after 637 days in their previous clash against Mumbai. A campaign in which they relinquished the iron grip over the top position after two years. This was a game BFC needed to win.

There was an effort from Rahul Bheke which was tipped over by Mohamad Nawaz and a rasping drive from Nishu Kumar which stung the keeper's hands in the first half. At the other end, Albert Serran and Co. kept Ferran Corominas and Hugo Boumous in check for a large part of the game. 

The few moments when they failed, like the time when Brandon Fernandes released Lenny Rodrigues behind the defence, Gurpreet Singh Sandhu was up to the task. Coach Carles Cuadrat had opted to put Harmanjot Khabra in an advanced role to press the double pivot of Ahmed Jahouh and Lenny Rodrigues from dictating the game. While it worked early on, Jahouh dropped deeper and with Brandon Fernandes coming inside, Khabra moved back deeper to protect the defence.

The opener, coming from a corner floated in by Dimas Delgado, himself making his 50th appearance for the Blues, was met by Chhetri. A steaming late runs into the box to meet the cross with a well-directed header.

Goa would draw level two minutes later with Boumous starting and finishing a flowing move which saw the ball switch between him Mandar and Corominas before the latter’s deft touch set up the Frenchman, who had continued his run, with the opportunity. Then, Boumous had a composure to finish the attack.

With tempers starting to flare, BFC boss Cuadrat took off Manuel Onwu - whose appearance as a substitute lasted all of 23 minutes - and Khabra and replaced them with Suresh Wangjam and Thongkhosiem Haokip to add fresh legs and muscle.

And as the game got stretched, BFC struck again. It was once again in the manner, as it was with the first goal, they are most known for: in transition. 

A quick counter-attack saw the ball switch from Dimas to Ashique Kuruniyan, who had till then had a quiet night on the left flank. The Kerala attacker, however, held the ball up amidst flying elbows and legs and touched it on to an onrushing Chhetri, now playing in his favoured left-wing, and the captain powered through to fire home. 

The win takes BFC to the second spot with 19 points, two behind Goa. Both teams will be keeping a keen eye on tomorrow’s contest between Mumbai City FC and ATK as the table becomes increasingly cramped.

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