Chhetri, Javi On Target As Blues Deny Shield Winners With 2-1 Win
Bengaluru: Bengaluru FC’s upward surge showed no signs of slowing down as Simon Grayson’s men overcame Mumbai City FC 2-1 at the Kanteerava Stadium, in Bengaluru, on Wednesday. Goals from Sunil Chhetri and Javi Hernandez gave the Blues a famous win over the Islanders which snapped Mumbai’s unbeaten streak this season and also denied Des Buckingham’s side the tag of ‘Invincibles’.
The Blues, playing three days on from their 1-0 win against Kerala Blasters, made three changes to their team with Roy Krishna and Parag Shrivas missing out through suspension. Skipper Sunil Chhetri, Australian defender Aleksandar Jovanovic and Suresh Wangjam made their way back into the squad, as Alan Costa missed the fixture owing to personal reasons.
The game started evenly with both sides matching each other’s pace and intensity. The hosts had the first big chance when Chhetri found himself behind the Mumbai backline after being put through by Javi Hernandez. But the striker’s attempted chip past Mumbai ’keeper Phurba Lachenpa was cleared by Mehtab Singh before it could find the net.
Chhetri had another chance in the 23rd minute, when the striker showed his strength to rob Jahouh of possession and unleash a shot on target. But the attempt was eventually saved by Lachenpa.
City, who began without midfielder Greg Stewart after the Scot was withdrawn from their preliminary eleven, were kept at bay by the resilient Bengaluru FC defence and saw their chances few and far between.
The Islanders had their best chance of the first half in the 43rd minute, when a through ball from Jorge Pereyra Diaz found Bipin Singh on the left wing. The winger found himself through on goal but couldn’t convert as his shot was parried away by Blues’ keeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu.
Bengaluru FC had the better chances and Bruno Ramires was at the receiving end of one, just before half-time, following a cross by Hernandez from a free-kick on the Blues’ right flank, but the Brazilian headed his shot wide.
It was a period of missed chances for either side as both teams went into the tunnel at half-time with the game goalless.
The second half began with Bengaluru FC going close as Hernandez saw his free kick into the box go inches past the reach of Rohit Kumar in the far corner.
The away side were the first to go to their bench as Buckingham made a triple substitution, bringing on Rostyn Griffiths, Mandar Rao Dessai and Vikram Singh to replace Ahmed Jahouh, Vignesh Dakshinamurthy and Bipin Singh in the 57th minute.
It was the home side who took the lead in the 58th minute, when Chhetri headed home from a corner.
The Blues doubled their lead in the 71st minute through Javi. Aleksandar Jovanovic sprinted past the Mumbai defence and his cut back into the box found the Spaniard who finished with aplomb. The visitors responded by halving the deficit in the 77th minute, when Mourtada Fall tapped home a header from Rostyn Griffiths following a corner by Rowllin Borges who had replaced Sanjeev Stalin a minute before.
Bengaluru made their first substitution of the night in the 79th minute when Pablo Perez replaced Sivasakthi. Three minutes later, Simon Grayson brought on Udanta Singh in place of Chhetri as the striker made his way out to a raucous applause from the Kanteerava crowd.
Having gotten themselves back into the reckoning with Fall’s goal, Mumbai continued to push for the equalizer, with Jorge Pereyra Diaz heading over the crossbar when fed a cross by Vikram Singh in the 88th minute. But the visitors could not ask much questions of Gurpreet as the Blues held onto their lead. Bengaluru, courtesy of their seventh win in a row, are now up to fourth spot in the Hero Indian Super League, with 31 points.
The Blues next face FC Goa in their final game of the League season, at the Kanteerava Stadium on Thursday, 23rd February.