Bengaluru FC lifts maiden ISL title after late Bheke winner

After 120 minutes of edge-of-the-seat action, Carles Cuadrat's team prevailed to earn a last-gasp 1-0 win over an off-colour FC Goa to lift the Indian Super League title. Rahul Bheke was the match winner.

Bengaluru FC ISL title FC Goa

Bengaluru FC players celebrate with the ISL title.   -  ISL/SPORTZPICS

It was two set-piece goals that undid Bengaluru FC in the 2018 Indian Super League final, and it was only fitting that a strike from a set-piece helped the side to its maiden ISL title on Sunday. After 120 minutes of edge-of-the-seat action, Carles Cuadrat's team prevailed to earn a last-gasp 1-0 win over an off-colour FC Goa at the Mumbai Football Arena here.

Centre-back Rahul Bheke emerged as the hero of the match as his looping header in the 117th minute helped Bengaluru to break the deadlock and inflict a second ISL final loss on FC Goa.


Both coaches opined in the pre-match conference that past records won't matter going into the final and they couldn't have said it any better - Bengaluru handed Goa two handsome defeats in the league stage but that made little difference in this final.  

There wasn't much to separate the two sides in the opening half, where neither managed a single shot on target. Bengaluru offered little room at the back and played a midfield-based fluent passing game. Cuadrat's side attacked down the flanks, predominantly through the mercurial Udanta Singh on the right, while Miku led the forward line and had a couple of early chances.

Skipper Sunil Chhetri exchanged a neat one-two with Nishu Kumar and released Miku down the centre, and the Venezuelan danced his way past three defenders, Seriton Fernandes, Carlos Pena, and Mourtada Fall, but just as he was about to take a shot, 'keeper Naveen Kumar raced out to claim the ball. His next chance came a few minutes short of the half-hour mark when Udanta made a clever run into the box and let one rip, but his shot went only as far as Miku in the box. The forward rounded the 'keeper and crafted a rabona cross, but Fall headed it away.

FC Goa, on the other hand, relied largely on long diagonal balls to the pacy Jackichand Singh. Jackichand whipped in many a teasing cross to Ferran Corominas in the box, but the Spaniard endured a frustrating half and either struggled to convert his chances or was found loitering offside.

Bengaluru FC Rahul Bheke goal FC GOA

Rahul Bheke sends home a looping header in the 117th minute. PHOTO: ISL/SPORTZPICS   -  ISL/SPORTZPICS


The second half got off to an explosive start as Ahmed Jahouh and Alejandro Barrera picked up bookings in the opening five minutes. Edu Bedia had a spectacular chance in the 61st minute when Brandon Fernandes dished out a brilliant lob and the Spaniard had just the 'keeper to beat, but he failed to make contact. Jahouh had a go at goal a few minutes later, but Gurpreet Singh Sandhu was not to be beaten.

The Goan defence came dangerously close to conceding in the 81st minute when Miku nearly put Bengaluru ahead. The poacher made the most of a defensive lapse and toe-poked it past Naveen, but was denied by the post. Miku returned to haunt the defence in the last minute of added time with a goal-bound volley, but Fall made a stunning leap to cut him out and another 30 minutes ensued.

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Both teams played out a cautious opening half of additional time, but FC Goa was dealt with a massive blow in the last minute when Jahouh received his marching orders. Miku had tackled him from behind and Jahouh seemed to have kicked the Bengaluru attacker while going to ground and was subsequently shown a second yellow card.

The death blow came with four minutes left on the clock. Dimas Delgado curled in his corner into the box and Bheke timed his run to perfection to power a looping header past an air-borne Naveen. This was Bheke's third goal of the season, and undoubtedly, the most important one.

The travelling Bengaluru fans broke into rapturous celebrations as the referee blew the final whistle. Their dream, printed on a banner, "Lead Us Carles", had just come true.

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