Bengaluru FC shrugged of the blues from the air miles clocked in by the rigours of back-to-back matches to beat Chennaiyin FC 3-1 in an Indian Super League match at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium here on Tuesday.
Chennaiyin, playing its first match in 11 days, showed signs of lack of match fitness as Bengaluru was quick off the blocks. Sunil Chhetri, Miku and Udanta Singh proved more than a handful for the backline with their swift movement inside the opposition box.
The match began with a reversal in proceedings from the first meeting between the two sides in December where Chennaiyin's Jeje Lalpekhlua punished a sloppy Bengaluru inside five minutes. Bengaluru's Boithong Haokip justified his second start of the season by putting the Albert Roca-led side into the lead in only the second minute.
Francisco Fernandes scored his first for the season, Chennaiyin's 11th different goal-scorer, to pull one back for the second-placed side.
Bengaluru regained the lead against the run of play in the second half when its top-scorer Nicolas Ladislao, better known as Miku, profited from a goalkeeping error. Henrique Sereno received his marching orders, his second of the season, with less than twenty minutes to go for bringing down Miku. Jeje was left ruing when his chance to equalise the score for the second time from the spot was weak and straight at Gurpreet Singh Sandhu.
The Blues' skipper Chhetri added the third goal in stoppage time to seal the three points for the table topper.
Read: Chennaiyin coach Gregory rues defensive errors
For the opener, Chennaiyin was undone by a simple over the top kick from midfield which allowed Bengaluru to get in behind the opposition backline. Harmanjot Khabra, returning to the line-up from suspension, whipped in a cross which Sunil Chhetri cushioned it down into the edge of the six-yard box with his head. An unmarked Boithang took his time before slotting the ball into the back of the net inside 90 seconds.
Things could have spelled disastrous for Chennaiyin when it afforded the away side a gift to double the lead straight from kick-off. Chhetri dispossessed left-back Jerry Lalrinzuala on the ball, before being fed a square ball at the edge of the box from Udanata Singh. The skipper's first-time shot was blocked by the legs of Mailson Alves.
Chennaiyin found it difficult to break down the Bengaluru defence which remained organised from the kick-off. Anirudh Thapa, who was superb in the home side's win over ATK in its last match, couldn't stamp his influence in the early proceedings against the likes of Erik Paartalu and Dimas Delgado in midfield.
Also read: Chennaiyin sharpshooter Jeje wants to strike gold
The only times Chennaiyin looked threatening to score in the first 30 minutes were through Gregory Nelson's strikes from distance. The home side got into good positions on the flanks, but their crosses were dealt with the Bengaluru defence, who averaged nearly a feet taller than the Chennaiyin attack.
Their persistence, however, paid off in the 33rd minute when the smallest man on the pitch Francisco Fernandes rose to meet an inviting cross from Jerry from the left wing to take it 1-1 on the night.
Also read: Anirudh Thapa turning heads with ISL displays
Chennaiyin hit the right notes after the interval but failed to create any clearcut chances to score. Veteran striker Chhetri had yet another say in the match when from a free-kick he unleashed a powerful shot from the left on target. Goalkeeper Karanjit Singh did well to get his left hand to the effort but he failed to keep it in his grasp, which allowed Miku to walk the ball past the goal-line to take his season's tally to 11.
After Sereno got his marching orders, Chennaiyin could have pulled the score to 2-2 in the 75th minute after Dhanpal Ganesh was brought down inside the box. Sandhu had little to do from the resulting spot kick as Jeje's weak effort was easily parried away.
Having the extra-man and the goal advantage, Bengaluru welcomed the space behind Chennaiyin's backline to counter. Chhetri, duly obliged in the 94th minute, when Udanta squared the ball for the Indian captain to score into an empty net to put the result beyond doubt.
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