A Sunil Chhetri penalty (68’) and Albert Serran’s first ever goal (80’) in a Bengaluru FC shirt were enough to get past NorthEast United FC and send the Blues to the top of the table at the Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium, in Guwahati, on Wednesday. The 2-0 win was the perfect response from Carles Cuadrat’s side who had suffered a dramatic first defeat of the season on Sunday at home.
With creative midfielder Raphael Augusto having to sit this fixture out owing to an injury, Cuadrat started Harmanjot Khabra in the midfield alongside Dimas Delgado, while Rahul Bheke slotted in at the right-back position. NorthEast too had a big name missing in Asamoah Gyan. The Ghanaian striker’s absence meant Martin Chaves taking his place in attack, with Panagiotis Triadis operating just behind the Uruguayan.
In a measured first half that ended goalless, Bengaluru should have been ahead in the 33rd minute when Ashique did ever so well to win a physical battle against Mislav Komorski and send in a measured cross for Udanta. But even with an empty goal at his mercy, the winger inexplicably thumped his header against the crossbar from five yards out as the Blues’ bench clutched their head in disbelief. Delgado did get a second stab on the rebound, but a shot with his weaker foot flew wide.
Cuadrat started the second half with a change, bringing off Ashique for Semboi Haokip, forcing Chhetri to move wide to the left.
After long spells of possession and patient play to start the second half with, Bengaluru needed a penalty to break the deadlock after Juanan Gonzalez’s attempted pass caught the hand of Redeem Tlang in the box. Chhetri stepped up and sent Subhasish Roy Chowdhury the wrong way to bag his fifth goal of the campaign and make it 1-0 to Bengaluru in the 68th minute.
Needing to chase the game, Robert Jarni made an attacking change, introducing Federico Gallego for Jose Leudo as NorthEast began pushing numbers ahead. But the hosts were dealt a telling blow when Albert Serran rose to meet a perfect chip from Erik Paartalu and placed a measured header beyond Roy Chowdhury to make it 2-0 in the 80th minute.
With a two-goal cushion, Bengaluru didn’t panic and saw the game out rather comfortably to go on top of the table with 16 points from eight games. The Blues now travel to Kolkata where they will take on ATK in a clash on Christmas day.