Spaniard Scores Acrobatic Overhead As Blues Come From Behind For Vital Win; Chhetri On Target
Bengaluru: A moment of magic from Javi Hernandez helped Simon Grayson’s Bengaluru FC clinch a comeback win over East Bengal FC at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium, in Bengaluru, on Wednesday. Naorem Mahesh Singh’s strike (15’) gave the visitors an early lead before Sunil Chhetri (21’) scored from the spot to bring things level, setting it up well for Hernandez’s acrobatic overhead goal (72’) that sealed the Blues’ first three points of the campaign.
Grayson rolled an eleven that saw as many as three changes from the side that went down to Mohun Bagan SG in Kolkata, with Ryan Williams and Sunil Chhetri returning to the fray, while youngster Harsh Patre was awarded a full-debut. East Bengal, meanwhile, started with Cleiton Silva as the focal point with Naorem Mahesh Singh and Nandhakumar on the flanks.
The Blues had an early opportunity denied by East Bengal’s defense when Rohit Kumar’s attempt from inside the box was blocked off. Carles Cuadrat’s men were the first to put the ball in the back of the net, with winger Mahesh riding two challenges before slotting past Gurpreet for the lead quarter of an hour into the game.
The advantage lasted less than five minutes when Chhetri combined in a slick give-and-go with Javi Hernandez, forcing Mandar Rao Desai into a tackle that saw Chhetri brought down, prompting referee Senthil Nathan to point to the spot. The skipper made no mistake, slotting past Prabhsukhan Singh Gill to restore parity.
Bengaluru had further chances to find the back of the net through Chhetri, who rose highest to nod a header goalward, while Curtis Main saw an effort go inches wide of the mark. Both sides vied for possession in midfield for large parts of the second period, with neither able to take charge of the game.
Ten minutes into the second half, Nandhakumar missed a sitter from six yards out after Mahesh put him through a brilliant pass down the right flank. The winger, rushing his way into the box unmarked, shanked his effort over the frame of goal. Moments later, Harmanjot Khabra came close with a header in the box, but once again failing to trouble Gurpreet in the Bengaluru goal.
Simon Grayson was the first to look at his bench to push for a goal, bringing on Robin Yadav for Jessel Carneiro, while Curtis Main made way for Aleksandar Jovanovic. Later, Parag Shrivas was replaced by debutant Rohit Danu.
Bengaluru found the winner in the 72nd minute when Javi, calm under pressure took a touch to lift the ball and finished with an acrobatic effort that saw Gill’s dive go in vain. Bengaluru then went on to close the game without fuss, with Keziah Veendorp and Lalremtluanga Fanai coming off the bench.
The Blues’ next fixture sees them welcome FC Goa to the Kanteerava Stadium, on October 25th.