Late Udanta strike spurs BFC

Intense: Bengaluru FC’s Sunil Chhetri (right) tries to get past Delhi Dynamos’ Marti Crespi during their ISL match at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium in Bengaluru on Monday. DH Photo/ B H Shivakumar

Delhi Dynamos threatened to spoil Bengaluru FC’s homecoming and talismanic skipper Sunil Chhetri’s milestone game with a gutsy display but the hosts dug deep into their reserves to ensure there wouldn’t be any dampener to their Monday night plans.

Playing their first game at the Sree Kanteerava in nearly a month and a half following four straight games on the road, an erratic BFC looked headed for a lucky draw before Udanta Singh changed everything with a moment of brilliance in the 87th minute.

The winger picked out a loose ball from a defensive clearance just outside the box and then rifled it through a crowded box, the ball ricocheting off the crossbar into the next. BFC gleefully took it, the 1-0 win sending them three points clear at the top.     

Missing the services of three key players — striker Miku and midfielders Dimas Delgado and Eric Paartalu (who later came on as a 48th minute substitute) — Bengaluru looked bereft of ideas for most of the game.

The midfield, which generally loves to keep the ball for long durations and dictate play, struggled to maintain possession or find the right passes.

Skipper Chhetri, playing his 150th game for The Blues, cut an anonymous figure as supplies barely came his way. Udanta and Chencho Gyeltshen, who operated as wingers cum strikers, failed to make much of an impression either.

Dynamos, equally sloppy at the start that saw very little chances being created at both ends, slowly started to boss the game.

Nandhakumar S and Lallianzuala Chhangte, playing on the right and left flanks respectively, harried BFC with their speedy runs while midfielder Adria Carmona Perez repeatedly cut open the hosts with some superb defence-splitting balls.

The visitors should have been 2-0 up by the half-hour mark but poor finishing and some courageous goalkeeping from Gurpreet Singh saw no damage being done to the scoreline.

Firstly, in the 28th minute, Nandhakumar, following a blistering run on the right, gave a superb cut back to  Andrija Kaluderovic. The Serbian, with all the time and space in the world, shot it straight at Gurpreet.

The second chance came two minutes later when Perez picked out Chhangte with a gorgeous long ball. Chhangte then charged into the box and inexplicably, with just Gurpreet to beat, shot straight at him.

The Blues endured another heart-in-the-mouth moment in the 41st minute when Nandhakumar had a chance to putt DD ahead but Gurpreet yet again stood like a rock. BFC tided through that storm and hoped for a better second half display but that never came.

Despite bringing on Paartalu in the immediacy of resumption and Semboi Haokip for the unimpressive Chencho in the 55th minute, BFC failed to kick themselves out of third gear. The creative spark in the midfield failed to ignite on a chilly winter evening, long balls and loose passes dominating the second half too.

A draw seemed imminent before Udanta’s late heroics powered BFC. Delhi, who continue to sit at the bottom of the table, will be ruing their missed chances.

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Late Udanta strike spurs BFC

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