A penalty from Iman Basafa and Udanta Singh’s brace gave Marco Pezzaiuoli and his Blues a crucial three points in the race for the playoffs, with a 3-0 win over Chennaiyin FC at the GMC Athletic Stadium, in Bambolim, on Wednesday. The result took Bengaluru within a point of Bozidar Bandovic’s Chennaiyin side, and just three points off the summit of the Indian Super League table.
Earlier, Pezzaiuoli handed goalkeeper Lara Sharma his Indian Super League debut as Gurpreet Singh Sandhu missed out on making the squad. Wungngayam Muirang and Pratik Chaudhari continued at the heart of defence while Udanta Singh was handed a start ahead of Cleiton Silva, who failed a late fitness test. Parag Shrivas, meanwhile, deputized for an injured Ashique Kuruniyan, as Naorem Roshan Singh started down the left instead.
Bengaluru started strong, pushing forward from the get go and could have had the lead just four minutes in when Basafa’s turn and attempt forced Debjit Majumder into a save. Only moments later, Chennaiyin had a chance of their own through Lukasz Gikiewicz, who managed to get on the end of a miscued clearance from Parag but Lara pulled off an astonishing save to keep the scores level at 0-0.
Soon after, referee Pratik Mondal pointed to the spot when Edwin Vanspaul was adjudged to have brought down Chhetri in the box. Basafa assumed spot-kick duties and sent Debjit the wrong way to make it 1-0 to the Blues with only 12 minutes on the clock.
Bengaluru continued to push forward down both flanks and could have had their second just past the half-hour mark when Roshan swung in a cross for Chhetri, but Chennaiyin defender Slavko Damjanovic sensed the danger and nodded away. BFC continued to control the proceedings, with Chennaiyin resorting to attempts from distance for most parts of the first period and, three minutes from the break, the Blues managed to double their lead.
Set free in midfield, Udanta rode the challenge from Narayan Das and slipped Chhetri inside the box. The skipper feinted past two Chennaiyin bodies before sending two more past him with a fake, only to unselfishly set up Udanta for a finish that would make it 2-0 as the Blues went into the break with a commanding lead.
Pezzaiuoli rang in a change at the break, replacing Basafa with Rohit Kumar in midfield. Chennaiyin started on the offensive but were soon pushed back again as Bengaluru continued to press their way into possession. Seven minutes from the restart, Bengaluru were gifted a third goal when Udanta chased a knock down from Chhetri, and pounced on a defensive error from Sajid Dhot to cut past Debjit and slot home from close range.
With several Bengaluru players short of match fitness, Pezzaiuoli rang in more changes as Damaitphang Lyngdoh replaced Suresh Wangjam. Chennaiyin rang in a change of their own past the hour mark when Vladimir Koman was replaced by Nerijus Valskis.
With the game ambling to a close, Bengaluru controlled possession and Pezzaiuoli looked to the bench to close things out as Muirang and Prince were replaced by Namgyal Bhutia and Edmund Lalrindika. Lalrindika had a chance for a fourth deep into regulation time when he got on the end of a cross from Roshan, but his effort was blazed over the bar.
Bengaluru ended the night with 10 Indian players on the field, with Bruno Ramires the sole foreigner as the referee pulled curtains on the proceedings. The result took Bengaluru to sixth place on the table, one point off the playoff spots and just three points off the top spot.
The Blues next face Kerala Blasters at the Tilak Maidan on January 30th.