BENGALURU: The demand was of a new beginning for Bengaluru FC in the new year. The defending champions have had a mediocre season in the Indian Super League so far and league leaders FC Goa were a big test for them even at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium. On Friday, Bengaluru struggled against Goa but skipper Sunil Chhetri’s brace handed them a 2-1 victory.
After Chhetri opened the scoring for Bengaluru in the 59th minute, Hugo Boumous equalised almost immediately. But Chhetri’s seventh goal of the season came in the 84th minute of the game to lift Bengaluru to second place on the league table with 19 points from 11 games. Goa maintained top status with 21 points from 11 matches. Goa never had it easy against Bengaluru. They had won only once in six outings. However, they were the favourites on Friday as Carles Cuadrat’s men were coming off two defeats in the last three matches. Goa dominated proceedings from the word go. They were the side with more possession, created more chances and had more shots in the first half. But a goal was still a far cry. Instead, it was Bengaluru who were close to scoring.
Rahul Bheke received a fine through-ball from Nishu Kumar down the right flank in the 11th minute. The full-back did well to cut in but his left-footed shot was cleared by Mohammad Nawaz in Goa’s goal. It was a midfield battle thereafter. With Goa getting the better of the Bengaluru midfield, they kept creating chance after chance, only to be shut out by the hosts’ two centre-backs – Juanan Gonzalez and Albert Serran. But Nishu somehow managed to rattle the Goa defence with a thunderous 35-yard shot. However, Nawaz once again came to Goa’s rescue. At the opposite end, Goa too had a go when Brandon Fernandes’ pass found Lenny Rodrigues one-on-one with Bengaluru custodian Gurpreet Singh Sandhu. But the India No 1 managed to clear the ball. As the first half came to an end, stats were clearly in Goa’s favour. They had created six chances, compared to Bengaluru’s two and had 60 per cent possession but could not find a goal.
With Cuadrat replacing an off-colour Udanta Singh with Manuel Onwu, Bengaluru started the second half with more purpose. And they finally broke the deadlock in the 59th minute from yet another set-piece. Dimas Delgado’s corner found an unmarked Chhetri and the India skipper headed home. However, it took only two minutes for Sergio Lobera’s men to equalise. Boumous, who has scored three goals and assisted four in the league so far, started the attack from the midfield. The French midfielder passed it to Mandar Rao Dessai, who passed it to Ferran Corominas. The Spaniard found Boumous, who put it past Gurpreet.
Onwu, who was coming off a seven-game injury lay-off, lasted only 32 minutes as he was taken off in the 78th minute leaving the scoring duty once again to Chhetri. And Bengaluru’s man-Friday was there to rescue his team once again. From a counter-attack, Ashique Kuruniyan’s through-ball found Chhetri, who calmly slotted it past Nawaz.