Carles Cuadrat’s Bengaluru FC side fought the odds and more to win 2-1 against FC Goa at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, in Margao, Goa, on Thursday. Rahul Bheke’s opener had been cancelled out by a fortuitous strike from Brandon Fernandes, but Sunil Chhetri, making his 100th League appearance in a Bengaluru shirt dived in to win it late in the second half.
Bengaluru were dealt two severe blows as a toe infection had meant Erik Paartalu would play no part in the game, before an ankle injury kept Miku out of contention from making the matchday squad. Cuadrat chose to roll an eleven that had Chencho Gyeltshen leading the line in place of the injured Venezuelan, while Xisco Hernandez joined Dimas Delgado in midfield.
The game lit up in the 10th minute when Juanan Gonzalez’s attempt to clear a low cross from Carlos Pena, landed at Hugo Boumous’ feet. The Frenchman, from ten yards out, fired only to see the ball come off Gurpreet Singh who charged the man and made himself big.
Bengaluru had a half-chance in the 28th minute when Chhetri nicked the ball off Ahmed Jahouh a few yards outside the Goa box before taking a shot that Mohammad Nawaz dived and held on to.
The Blues, who took time to get comfortable moving forward, went ahead in the 34th minute with a goal that Bheke and the Blues’ faithful won’t be forgetting for a while. A variation from a corner saw Xisco’s volley roll in the path of Bheke who, with his back to the goal, chose to smartly flick the ball with his heel, leaving Nawaz no chance to save.
Bheke, who always fancies himself in attack, almost gave Bengaluru a second in the dying minutes of the half. Pouncing on Mourtada Fall’s lazy attempt to clear on the edge of the box, Bheke went to pick the top corner only to see the ball ricochet off the crossbar.
Goa’s start to the second half was far from ideal after defender Mohamed Ali handled the ball from a Bengaluru throw in to pick his second booking of the game as referee Taqi Muhammad pointed him to the showers. Bengaluru began making most of the advantage, passing the ball around and forcing Goa to concede a flurry of corners.
Just when everything seemed to be going to plan for Cuadrat, Bengaluru had a sending off of their own. In his quest to win an aerial ball, Delgado’s leg caught Boumous in the chest and the influential midfielder was given marching orders on the hour mark. With men even, Goa sensed the chance for an equaliser and got one in the 72nd minute, albeit with a touch of fortune.
Capitalising on Bengaluru’s failure to clear the ball in their own box, Coro stole it off Harmajot Khabra before rolling it to Brandon Fernandes. The striker’s shot on goal took a deflection off Nishu Kumar’s foot and then that of Jackichand Singh before rolling into the goal while a wrong-footed Sandhu watched in disgust.
The disappointment of conceding an equaliser lasted just five minutes as Bengaluru struck at the other end in the 77th minute. Udanta who beat his marker on the right found Chhetri with an inch-perfect chip at the far post, and the skipper headed it home on the dive to restore the Blues’ lead.
Chhetri then had a chance to double the advantage when Xisco found him in space inside the box, but the skipper’s initial shot was blocked before a slap on the rebound came back off the crossbar. Bengaluru were made to deal with some nervy moments in the final minutes as substitute Manvir Singh’s shot went inches wide of Gurpreet’s far post, but there was to be no late heartbreak as the Blues made it four wins on the trot, away from home.
Bengaluru next face Delhi Dynamos, in their first home game in over 50 days, at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium on Monday, November 26th.