ISL: Bengaluru FC rides on Chhetri's brace to down FC Goa

Bengaluru FC skipper Sunil Chhetri rose to the occasion to punish FC Goa as the Blues cut down the lead to their opponents in the Indian Super League.

Chhetri wheels away in celebration after scoring Bengaluru's winner.   -  K. Murali Kumar

A clinical brace from Sunil Chhetri propelled Bengaluru FC (BFC) to a tense 2-1 win over FC Goa at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium here on Friday. The fixture lived up to all the hype, with the teams producing a lively, engrossing affair.

Chhetri broke the deadlock in the 59th minute following a closely-contested first half, but the advantage was quickly wiped out by Hugo Boumous. Chhetri, though, delivered yet another reminder of his immeasurable worth.

AS IT HAPPENED

Six minutes from time, the 35-year-old expertly finished off a breakaway to hand BFC a vital win. The result catapulted the side into second place (19 points), with Goa (21) still on top.

The first half was a cagey affair, with neither team able to mount a serious threat on goal. BFC managed two shots on target -- the first a left-footed drive from the edge of the area by Rahul Bheke; the second a thunderous effort from 35 yards by Nishu Kumar -- but generally struggled to penetrate the Goa defence.

At the other end, Goa failed to muster a single shot on target in the opening period. Ferran Corominas was tightly marked while Boumous' forays into the area fizzled out. Harmanjot Khabra started in an unfamiliar No.10 position, presumably to press Goa's two deep-lying midfielders -- Lenny Rodrigues and Ahmed Jahouh. The latter was forced to drop deep as a result, and Goa's distribution from the base of midfield suffered.

BFC scored the first goal through Chhetri, who ghosted into the box unmarked to head home the corner. Photo: K. Murali Kumar

 

At half-time, Carles Cuadrat withdrew the ineffective Udanta Singh for Manuel Onwu. BFC switched to a front three, with Sunil Chhetri on the left and Ashique Kuruniyan on the right flank. The opening goal arrived shortly before the hour mark, just as the game had begun to open up. BFC won a corner and Dimas Delgado, playing his 50th match for the club, found Chhetri, who had ghosted unmarked into the area. Chhetri headed goal-wards and Mohammad Nawaz's weak effort proved inadequate.

The lead lasted only two minutes. Goa equalised through Boumous, at the end of a move the attacker had started himself. The Frenchman picked the ball up in midfield and strode forward. A neat give-and-go with Corominas saw Boumous through on goal, and the latter curled the ball into the net in delightful fashion.

The game now turned into an end-to-end affair, with both sides pushing forward in attack. Cuadrat substituted the unfortunate Onwu, who had spent only 23 minutes on the pitch. The winner came, predictably, via a counter-attacking move from BFC as the clock ticked down. Delgado found Ashique, who played Chhetri into space with a neat flick. The BFC captain made no mistake as the arena erupted.

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