AFC Cup: Chettri winner takes Bengaluru FC past Bagan

On the eve of the opening match of the AFC Cup, Bengaluru FC skipper Sunil Chhetri called on his teammates to make a bigger impact on the attacking front. The players did his bidding here on Tuesday, taking BFC to a tense 2-1 victory over Mohun Bagan. It was, in fact, Chhetri who struck the match-winner.

BFC captain Sunil Chhetri celebrates after scoring the winner against Mohun Bagan.   -  K.MURALI KUMAR

On the eve of the opening match of the AFC Cup, Bengaluru FC skipper Sunil Chhetri called on his teammates to make a bigger impact on the attacking front. The players did his bidding here on Tuesday, taking BFC to a tense 2-1 victory over Mohun Bagan. It was, in fact, Chhetri who struck the match-winner.

The impressive show in this international club tournament fixture came as a huge relief for the home faithful, who have had to endure through a disappointing recent run in the I-League. After Katsumi Yusa’s penalty gave the visitor a 1-0 lead in 36th minute, BFC recovered spectacularly through goals from Sandesh Jhingan and Chhetri. Bagan, which had held the same side to a 0-0 draw on Saturday in the domestic league, started with confidence. In the 9th minute, Yusa sent in a perfect cross to Jeje Lalpekhlua, who failed to make contact. It turned out to be a night to forget for Jeje, as he missed two more chances in this outing.

Before half-time, the impressive Bagan forward Sony Norde made a run into the box, and was brought down by Jhingan. Yusa stepped up and converted from the spot.

Ten minutes after the restart, Bagan suffered a huge setback when Yusa left the field with an injured shin. BFC began to find its feet at this juncture, and pulled level through a terrific set-piece play. Australian Cameron Watson floated in a corner to the edge of the box, which eluded the crowd near the goal-line. Defender Jhingan sprinted forward and struck a surprise low volley, which defeated the Bagan custodian.

Just a short while later, Chhetri found the mark from a free-kick, sending the home crowd into a tizzy. The India international was more relieved than overjoyed with the timely goal.

In the latter stages of the encounter, a section of BFC supporters engaged in a verbal duel with the travelling fans, who were seated nearby. The banter, though fierce, did not boil over to physical altercations.

Chhetri - at the centre of BFC's first victory over Bagan at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium in six attempts - said, "When Jhingan scored, the whole morale of the team changed. We became more confident, and everything started to click. Like I said yesterday, converting chances is so very important."

The result:

Bengaluru FC 2 (Sandesh Jhingan 51’, Sunil Chhetri 57’) bt Mohun Bagan 1 (Katsumi Yusa 36’)

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