A resilient effort from Bengaluru FC was not enough as they went down fighting 2-3 to Chennaiyin FC in the summit clash of the Indian Super League (ISL) at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium, in Bengaluru, on Saturday.
While skipper Sunil Chhetri (9’) gave Bengaluru the lead in the first half, a double from Mailson Alves (17’, 45’) and a strike from Raphael Augusto (67’) put Chennaiyin 3-1 up. The Blues fought back in the final minutes of the second half, but Miku’s (90+1’) late goal only proved to be a consolation for the home side.
Bengaluru were quick off the blocks, spraying the ball around with intent while the attack went about making space in pockets all around. And it was Bengaluru’s lethal front three that would combine for the opener in 9th minute. Miku picked out Udanta with a pass that the winger took with him on a little run down the right before sending in a cross that Chhetri met with a delightful diving header.
But Chennaiyin, who have been a threat with set-pieces all through the tournament – pulled one back in the 17th minute. Gregory Nelson whipped in a ball that Mailson Alves rose to nod in with a little help from the post.
Looking to wrest control of the game and quickly, Bengaluru got down to work again. Miku and Chhetri kept the Chennaiyin defence on their toes but couldn’t really create a big chance to score. There were attempts from distance, but they lacked one of either sting or direction.
The Blues then suffered two telling blows in as many minutes. Just before half-time, midfield general Dimas Delgado went down in pain, clutching his foot and had to be substituted with Victor Perez. But the second jolt was harder to take when the Nelson-Mailson combination struck from a corner again to give Chennaiyin a 2-1 lead on the stroke of half-time.
Bengaluru thought they had their second in the 52nd minute when Udanta’s strike found the back of the net. But celebrations were soon halted by the assistant’s raised flag for what was a very contentious off-side call.
But for all of Bengaluru’s pressing in attack, it was Chennaiyin who scored on a counter. Picked out by a pass in the midfield but unable to find space to shoot, Jeje Lalpekhlua played the ball to Augusto who slotted home calmly beyond Gurpreet to make it 3-1 in the 67th minute.
Chhetri came dangerously close to giving Bengaluru a fighting chance when he directed a header from the corner towards goal. And it took an effort from Karanjit Singh to tip it out.
As the Blues put bodies up front, a golden chance fell once again for Chhetri in the 86th minute. Miku held off challenges from a host of defenders inside the box and slid it to the skipper who somehow hammered it over from close range.
Nonetheless, Bengaluru kept the pressure on and pulled one back in the first minute of injury time when Miku headed home Udanta’s cross to make it 2-3 and give the Blues’ faithful hope. It was not to be though, as the referee blew the final whistle to hand Chennaiyin their second title.