Three penalties – one of them in the last minute – a damaged cheek bone and a drama-filled end, Bengaluru FC left it late to beat Salgaocar 2-1 at the Bangalore Football Stadium on Saturday and will enter the New Year as League leaders.
Ashley Westwood rung in a few changes from the team that lost to East Bengal last week. John Johnson was back from serving a one-match suspension, Pawan Kumar started in goal and Beikhokhei Beingaichho was back on the right as the game got off to a slow start. Bengaluru looked to grapple for possession but spare the odd stitched pass, nothing seemed to click.
The game needed a goal to spring to life and Bengaluru got the breakthrough in the 29th minute when Keegan Pereira’s cross caught Nicolao Colaco’s hand in the box. The referee pointed at the spot and Sunil Chhetri stepped up to score his 9th goal in the League, blasting it past ’keeper Karanjit Singh. Beingaichho came close five minutes later when his intended cross almost landed in the back of the net.
Bengaluru started the second half with a lot more purpose but suffered a set-back with fifteen minutes on the clock when Johnson had to come off after damaging his cheek bone following a clash with Fulganco Cardoza. The defence understandably took a little to settle but Salgaocar failed to make it count. The visitors did have their moment in the 84th minute though when the curse of the penalty came to haunt Bengaluru FC. This time, Vishal Kumar’s hand caught Gilbert Oliveira’s cross and the Salgaocar player stepped up to smash home past Kumar .
But just when the game looked like meandering toward a draw, Robin Singh – who came on as a substitute – turned the game on its head. Chasing a ball, the striker was felled by Augustin Fernandes in the box as Bengaluru FC had the last say with the penalties. Yet to score in the League before this game, Singh stepped up and sent Karamjit the wrong way to make it a memorable debut goal for the club. Bengaluru hanged on for the three minutes of added time to stay on top of the table with 30 points from 15 games. Bengaluru FC midfielder Thoi Singh was awarded man-of-the-match.