Bengaluru FC staged a brilliant fightback to come from a goal down at half time and beat FC Pune City 3-1 in a thrilling clash at the Shree Shiv Chhatrapati Sports Complex in Pune on Thursday. Adil Khan’s (35’) first half opener for the hosts was cancelled out by Miku (65’, 79’) who scored for the fourth game running before skipper Sunil Chhetri (90+6’) sealed the win.
The pre-game press conference saw Albert Roca speak of the quality he possesses in the squad and the Spaniard was prompt in rolling out a starting XI with changes from the win against NorthEast United. Striker Braulio Nobrega, who had cameos off the bench, was handed his first full start in place of Edu Garcia. The defence too saw a change with Juanan Gonzalez come in ahead of John Johnson. Meanwhile, illness forced Pune skipper Marcelinho Leite to a place on the bench.
A cautious and solid start from Bengaluru was undone by a momentary lapse of focus in the 35th minute that the hosts grabbed with glee. A Pune move that shifted to the left saw Isaac Vanmalsawma send in a cross and with no Bengaluru player tracking his run into the box, an unmarked Adil Khan met the ball with a diving header to make it 1-0.
Bengaluru’s start to the second half was aggressive and Vishal Kaith had to save and tip over attacks from both wings as Pune began throwing numbers back in defence. The pressure only increased after Pune were reduced to ten men in the 55th minute after Baljit Sahni was sent off for a second bookable offence, after a challenge on Braulio. His first booking came just before the half time when he hacked down Udanta Singh to stop a Bengaluru attack.
Roca rung in the changes bringing on Antonio Dovale and Garcia on for Juanan and Erik Paartalu and it took a little under ten minutes for Bengaluru to make the man-advantage count. Miku tapped home Garcia’s cut-back from close to draw things level as the Blues’ went all out attack.
As the Blues sent numbers forward, the hosts managed to create a few half-chances on counter attacks but it was Rahul Bheke who was an ever-present figure, blocking a host of attempts in the absence of defensive partner Juanan who was replaced to add impetus to the BFC attack.
Bengaluru’s persistence paid off when Miku netted his second of the night and put the visitors 2-1 up in the 79th minute. Udanta made inroads from the right flank and squared it to Edu after skipping past two Pune bodies. Edu’s first-time effort was blocked, before the rebound fell for Miku who controlled and hammered home a left-footer past a hapless Kaith in the Pune goal.
Roca then introduced defender John Johnson for Braulio in the final ten minutes to control proceedings and, while the Blues managed to keep their lead safe, there was still more to come as Chhetri (90+6’) too got his name on the scoresheet in the final minute of added time to seal a 3-1 win. The skipper, without a goal in three games, ended his drought with an intelligent dink over Kaith after exchanging passes with substitute Dovale.
The Blues are back home next, as they face Chennaiyin FC at the Kanteerava Stadium, in Bengaluru, on Sunday.