After 120 minutes of fight, Bengaluru FC prevailed to lift their maiden ISL title beating FC Goa 1-0 at the Mumbai’s Football Arena on Sunday.
In a final, where both teams resorted to a defensive display, BFC centre-back Rahul Bheke emerged as the hero of the match as his goal from a header in the 117th minute helped Bengaluru FC to break the defensive shackle of Goa to clinch their maiden ISL title in second consecutive attempts.
There wasn’t much to split 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.
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. 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.
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.
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.