Bengaluru FC chose a rainy night at the Fortress to emphatically storm into the play-off stages of the Indian Super League, beating FC Goa 2-0 at the Kanteerava Stadium, on Friday. Edu Garcia’s 35th minute header and Dimas Delgado’s calm finish in the 82nd minute gave the Blues their fifth win on the bounce and in the process made Albert Roca’s side the first team to qualify for a place in the semifinal.
The win was Bengaluru’s eleventh in the competition and took their tally to 33 points as they raced eight clear at the top of the standings. While the game was billed as an attacking battle, Gurpreet Singh Sadhu overcame his Goan ghosts, and stood out with a brilliant performance under the bar keeping his fourth clean sheet.
Albert Roca, who had suggested on the eve of the clash about making a few changes considering the packed schedule, raised a few eyebrows when he named a heavily altered squad that had top scorer Miku watching from the stands. Nishu Kumar started at left back, while Rahul Bheke returned and slotted in at right back. Thongkhosiem Haokip started his first ISL game, while Antonio Dovale, Lenny Rodrigues and Edu Garcia all were handed starts. The in-form trio of Erik Paartalu, Udanta Singh and Boithang Haokip started on the bench.
Gurpreet turned up with fantastic save early in the game, using his feet to keep out a Ferran Corominas header that was on target. On the other end, it took a save from point-blank distance for Naveen Kumar to keep Haokip’s tap in from a Nishu cross, out.
Bengaluru decided they would dictate the pace of the half and had half-chances that came from patient build-ups. But like they have done so often in the season, a perfectly executed set-piece gave Roca’s side the lead in the 35th minute. Dimas and Dovale stood over a corner and a little routine to have the defence guessing saw Dovale swing the ball in and Garcia’s looping header was as perfect as they come, leaving Naveen Kumar with no chance in the rival goal.
Bengaluru could have had a second in the 57th minute when Chhetri saw a stunning effort from distance destined for the top corner, only for Kumar to pull off an equally impressive save. The Blues frustrated Goa with long spells of possession and the game soon got physical. John Johnson who had yet another solid game at the back, came close to nodding one home in the 71st minute from a corner but his effort was hit straight at Kumar.
The home side’s persistence paid off when Dimas broke the offside trap to finish from close range and score his first goal in Blue. Garcia who started the move skipped past a few defenders before the ball ended up with Chhetri outside the box. Dovale held on to the skipper’s wall pass and then gently chipped over the defense as an intelligent Dimas made the run to make it 2-0 for Bengaluru.
The Goans kept on trying to make a comeback, but the Blues kept dictating the play and blocking all inroads made by their frontline. Gurpreet once again pulled off a one-handed save to deny Lanzarote who managed to make his way past substitute Subhasish inside the box on the right.
Deep into injury time, the Blues almost made it 3-0 when Subhasish twisted and turned around an agitated Lanzarote before firing a perfect cross in for Boithang. The winger outjumped his marker but his powerful header was somehow kept out by Kumar as the game ended 2-0.
The Blues return to AFC Cup duties next with an away fixture in Maldives, where they face TC Sports Club in the play-off stages.