Bengaluru FC consolidated their position at the top of the Indian Super League 2017-18 points table by coming from behind to beat FC Pune City 3-1 at the Shree Shiv Chhatrapati Sports Complex Stadium in Pune yesterday. Adil Khan opened the scoring for Pune but a double from Miku and a Sunil Chhetri strike in injury-time proved to be enough for the Blues. Pune’s Baljit Sahni was also sent off early in the second period.
The game started at an even pace as both teams played free-flowing football, taking it in turns to carry forward attacks into the opposition half. Bengaluru’s Chhetri and Pune’s Emiliano Alfaro were always in the thick of things, keeping the defenders on their toes while trying to fashion openings.
Bengaluru had the first real chance in the 26th minute from a free-kick right on the edge of the 18-yard-box. Chhetri fashioned a shot around the wall, but Pune custodian Vishal Kaith read it well, and gathered the ball.
Chhetri thought he had given his team the lead two minutes later, but the officials deemed him to have handled the ball before rounding off Kaith to score. He got a yellow for his troubles even though it may have been a bit harsh on the Bengaluru captain who had used his shoulders.
It was the Stallions who broke the deadlock from their first chance of note in the 35th minute. Isaac Vanmalsawma came in from the left flank, and whipped in an inch-perfect cross into the box where Khan was at hand to score with a diving header.
After the restart, Bengaluru stepped on the pedal from the word go. The 51st minute saw Chhetri being put through on the left flank, and Bengaluru’s skipper cut in and fired a right-footed shot. Kaith though, was equal to it with a smart save.
The very next minute, the Stallions countered with an attack of their own when Carlos gathered a long cross from Alfaro, and he cut inside to take the shot. The ball however, flashed agonizingly over the crossbar. The hosts then created problems of their own as they went a man down 11 minutes into the half. Sahni’s rash challenge on Braulio Nobrega got him a second yellow as Pune were reduced to 10 men for the second successive match.
The Blues took full advantage of the situation by equalising in the 64th minute. Bengaluru took the lead a quarter of an hour later after Udanta Singh’s brilliant run into the penalty box led to the ball being played into the path of Garcia. His first-time shot rebounded off defender Rafael Lopez, but when it came to Miku, the Venezuelan chested the ball down and rifled it home for his and Bengaluru’s second.
Chhetri then put the icing on the cake in the sixth minute of added time when he was put through on goal after a lovely one-two with substitute Toni Dovale. India’s leading goal-scorer came up with a lovely dink to beat Kaith and give the score-line a flattering look as the Blues bagged maximum points to go three points clear at the top of the table.