Mumbai, Mar 18 (PTI)
Bengaluru FC clinched their maiden Indian Super League title as Rahul Bheke found a championship-winning header in the dying minutes of the final against FC Goa, here Sunday.
The two teams were locked 0-0 after 90 minutes. Even the first extra time saw no goals but Bengaluru got better of a 10-men Goan team 1-0, four minutes from the end of the second extra half.
Goa’s mid-fielder Ahmed Jahouh was shown a second yellow card and he had to walk out as the side was reduced to 10 men. It looked Goa defenders would take the game into the penalties but Bheke looped a header on a corner kick from Dimas Delgado and it went past custodian Naveen Kumar, triggering celebrations in the Bengaluru camp.
Earlier, both the teams began with caution. Goa earned a corner early in the game but Edu Bedia’e header went wide at a nearly packed Mumbai Football Arena. Bengaluru had a chance when mid-fielder Nishu Kumar sent Sunil Chhetri through with a lobbed pass.
The skipper passed it to Miku, who cut past three players and shot, but Goa custodian Naveen collected it safely. In the 24th minute, Bengaluru had another chance. Xisco played Chhetri down the flank and the captain sent a cross in the box to Miku but his header sailed above the bar.
Two minutes later, Miku had another close chance, but Goa’s defence did well to clear it. Bengaluru strikers kept Goa’s defence and Naveen Kumar on their toes, but still both the sides were searching for their first goal after 35 minutes.
Goa received a setback when their skipper and mid-fielder Mandar Rao Dessai had to be stretchered out as he pulled his hamstring just before the conclusion of the first half.
Goa did have a few chances in the first half, but they failed to convert any. After the change of ends, Goa upped the ante and their best chance came in the 58th minute when Brandon Fernandes swung a cross for Bedia, but the Spanish mid-fielder couldn’t get a touch on to it.
In the 67th minute, aggressive mid-fielder Jackichand Singh played the ball to Ahmed Jahouh outside the box, and the Moroccon tried to slot one in the top corner but ended up side footing to the keeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu.
In the additional time of the second half, Bengaluru had another close chance. Nishu Kumar crossed the ball into the box and Miku zoomed past the defenders. He took a touch and shot but Mourtada Fall got into the way as Bengaluru earned a corner.
After 90 minutes, the two sides were still locked 0-0. In the first ‘extra’ time, Bengaluru survived a near scare when Luisma headed the ball back to Gurpreet but the experienced keeper collected safely.