This is the one we weren’t supposed to win. The bookmakers felt we had no right to, the media thought we had no chance to and rivals assumed we had no business to.
But Ashley Westwood’s blue army, full of ‘rejects’ and those who had their professional obituaries penned down, decided to dump the script and be the heroes of a story that’s never been written before.
September 22 was when the Bengaluru FC dream began and while the points on that magical afternoon may have been divided, the opinions certainly weren’t. The newbies of Indian football looked like giving more than just a good account of themselves, as everyone would figure.
The 1-1 draw with Mohun Bagan later, Bengaluru would go to win the next four games on the spin, taking down Rangdajied United, United SC, Mohammedan Sporting and Dempo in clinical fashion.
John Johnson and Curtis Osano at the heart of Bengaluru’s defence, were ominously solid and it didn’t take time for the stands to take to the English duo. Then there was the Sean, the less famous of the two Rooneys, but it didn’t matter because the Australian was racking up the goals.
After what seemed like a dream start, the stutter came. Two defeats and two draws in the next four games and choruses of ‘we told you so’ began ringing loud. Rivals made ground and life at the top of the table began getting crowded. Westwood needed a reaction from the dressing room and needed it soon. Salgaocar away from home wasn’t the best place to start a revival, but if Bengaluru had to dream, they had to do it while taking down the biggies.
The diminutive Beikhokhei Beingaichho, who played such a vital role that season, turned up with a second-half winner. But it was Pawan Kumar in goal who kept out a penalty in the final minute of additional time in the second half, that sent Bengaluru back with all points. It was the kind of performance they needed to inject life into the campaign. Sunil Chhetri, who had the slowest of starts to the season, was now scoring for fun.
The Blues beat Shillong Lajong, Churchill Brothers and completed the double over Mohammedan Sporting with a famous 3-2 win at the Salt Lake, in Kolkata. Bengaluru were slowly being talked about along with other title contenders.
And just like that, Bengaluru found themselves with the chance to win on April 21 at the home of one of the most successful clubs in the modern era of Indian football – Dempo. Everything that night was big – the occasion, the stage, the opponents and the desire the Westwood’s boys showed. Robin, Menyongar, Rooney and Chhetri all found the back of the net on a night like no other. Bengaluru FC had 47 points from 24 games. India had new heroes, ones that weren’t part of the script at the start, but ones who had done enough along the way to alter it.
Pawan, Bruno, Poirei, Ricardo, Osano, Johnson, Keegan, Caldeira, Chhetri, Rooney, Beingaichho, Meitei, Robin, Menyongar, Rino, Thoi, Siam, Vineeth, Gurtej, Manpreet, Manju, Sawhney, Vishal, Gurtej
Head Coach: Ashley Westwood