Bengaluru FC settled scores with ten-man Chennaiyin FC handing their rivals from the south a 3-1 defeat in a game that saw Gurpreet Singh Sandhu keep out a penalty at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, in Chennai, on Tuesday. Boithang Haokip’s early opener (2’), Miku’s eleventh (63’) and Sunil Chhetri’s ninth (90+4’) sealed the Blues’ fourth win on the trot and sixth in seven games in the competition.
Winger Francisco Fernandes had pulled the hosts level with a 33rd minute header in the first half before Chennaiyin skipper Henrique Soreno (71’) was sent off in the second half. The tenth win of the campaign also sent Bengaluru (30 points) seven points clear at the summit of the Indian Super League ahead of second placed Chennaiyin (23 pts).
Albert Roca’s decision to start with Haokip ahead of Edu Garcia on the wings needed within two minutes for vindication when the lad from Manipur who has been impressing with every passing game, struck firmly with his right to give Bengaluru the lead. A cross from Harmanjot Khabra was nodded down by Sunil Chhetri and though ’keeper Karanjit Singh managed to get a hand to the ball, Haokip’s shot had too much on it to be stopped.
Bengaluru had a fantastic chance to score a second in the 28th minute when, after toying with the Chennaiyin defence, Chhetri’s chip to pick Miku was a little too high for the striker who had an empty goal to nod into.
Chennaiyin, despite doing little in attack in the first half, drew level in the 33rd minute when Fernandes rose to nod home a Jerry Lalrinzuala cross that the Bengaluru defence should have done better to deal with.
Having clawed back into the game with the equaliser, Chennaiyin began the second half with more intent, pushing Bengaluru to concede a few corners that the defence dealt with. But it was Bengaluru who would make a set-piece count in the 63rd minute. Birthday boy Dimas Delgado sent in his take into the box to find Chhetri on the left whose first-time attempt was fumbled by Karanjit Singh in the rival goal, before the stray ball was bundled in by Miku for his tenth goal on the road this season.
The Blues regained control of the game and created a few chances keeping the pressure on the hosts. With Chennaiyin pushing forward in search of their second equaliser, a long ball saw Miku run clear in the rival half before being hacked to the ground by Sereno who received his second booking reducing the hosts to ten men.
However, with Bengaluru looking to get a third, a suspicious call from the referee gave Chennaiyin a lifeline in the 75th minute. Khabra was adjudged to have fouled Ganesh in the box, while the replays showed no contact. Nonetheless, Gurpreet produced a brilliant save to deny Chennayin top-scorer Jeje from the spot, diving to his right to save a weak shot and keep the Blues’ narrow lead intact.
The save provided Bengaluru an added confidence boost as they went all out in search of the third goal. Numerous chances fell for Miku, Chhetri and substitute Nishu Kumar, who all were guilty of missing from close range.
The Blues’ persistence finally paid off when Chhetri found the back of the net in the fourth minute of added time to make it 3-1 and seal the game. Udanta who chased down a weak back pass, set up the skipper free in front of the goal, and he made no mistake this time around to finish it off from close range.
Bengaluru now return back to the Fortress, where they will host FC Goa on Friday, 9th February for their third game in seven days.