In Bangalore Chennaiyin FC denied a partisan home crowd their desire as they pulled off an incredible win against debutants Bengaluru FC in the final of the Indian Super League yesterday at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium in Bangalore.
Chennaiyin FC Raphael Augusto with team mates celebrates after scoring a goal agaisnt Bengaluru FC during the ISL final match at Kanteerava Stadium in Bengaluru on Saturday.
Chennaiyin now joins ATK as the most successful ISL side. But CFC had prepared well for the league leaders and were using their physicality to cut off any lasting threat from the home team.
Miku played an inch-perfect through ball to Udanta Singh and the Manipuri winger struck a crisp cross for Chhetri to convert. The Kanteerava Stadium will be packed and rearing to be as loud as possible t make it hard for Mizo sniper Jeje Lalpekhlua to deliver for the Marina Macahans.
Bengaluru switched to the ISL, which is backed by one of Asia's richest men, Mukesh Ambani, after Asia's football governing body ruled that the title winners will contest the AFC Cup from 2018. Previously FC Goa and Kerala Blasters have bowed out in the finals at their respective homes in 2015 and 2016. Gregory Nelson, who had assisted three of his team's last four goals, delivered a delightful corner with surgical precision as Alves rose above the BFC defence to score a mighty header and get the score back on level terms. Chennaiyin were the table toppers in 2014 but were ousted in the semi-finals.
Chennaiyin FC stand in the way as Bengaluru FC, the model club of Indian football as they seek a triumphant conclusion to what has been a remarkable maiden campaign in the ISL. For Bengaluru, chasing their fifth title in five years, this would be a harsh initiation to the ISL. The BFC fans will expect their captain to step up to the occasion once again and prove his mettle. Perhaps, it was something the league was expecting when they chose to change the venue for the final. And there was also some Brazilian touch to the game. They have kept their unbeaten run intact in the past 10 games and will aim to extend the run in the finals of the competition.
Chetri's opening goal gave Bengaluru FC the advantage they needed early on in the summit showdown. With 60 minutes on the clock, Bengaluru made their final two changes.
"I have been on the opposite side, being down by a goal at half-time, and it really deflates you".
Chennaiyin held on to the momentum and enjoyed a lion's share of possession, but looked vulnerable in defence. Their strength this season has been the towering presence of Dimas Delgado and Erik Paartalu in the midfield complimenting Chhetri and Miku upfront. With a goal down and 45 minutes to go, Bengaluru had all to play for.
It wouldn't be an exaggeration to say whichever striker among Sunil Chhetri and Jeje Lalpekhlua have the better game, that team will take the title. We know they are not infallible at home.