The glory, elation and trophies brought along with it its fair share of heartbreaks and tears at Bengaluru FC. If 2013-14 was about unbridled joy, the following season reminded us about how cruel the sport could be. Literally minutes away from a second successive I-League title on the last day of the season with Mohun Bagan on the other side of the pitch at the Kanteerava, John Johnson’s headed goal looked good to do the job. The Blues needed a win, Bagan, a draw. Then, just like that, Bello Rasaq rose to nod home a corner in the 87th minute. It was more than a goal. It was a dagger that was drilled straight through Bengaluru hearts before being twisted, just to make sure.
There was no erasing that pain, but winning the League again would surely ease the woes, by a bit at the least. Bengaluru started the season with away wins at Salgaocar (1-2) and Aizawl (0-1), where defender Curtis Osano scored his second goal in a BFC shirt. South Korean striker Kim Song-Yong, who had been signed by Westwood that season, opened his account with a brace in a 3-0 win over Shillong Lajong at home, to make it 9 points from three games for the Blues.
With the League being reduced to nine teams for the season, the margin for error was less. One slip-up could alter the way you ended the season. Bengaluru did have a few blips, but did well to arrest any sort of slide.
There were big wins, wins with the smallest of margins, some lucky, some comprehensive. But arguably, the most satisfying one came against Mumbai FC at the Fortress. These were opponents that Bengaluru had never beaten and every attempt to set the record straight ended in despair. The game looked like heading to one of the many draws the teams had played out when Daniel Lalhlimpuia, a second half substitute, decided it would be a good time to gain some West Block immortality. His goal ended the jinx and Bengaluru had three vital points.
The win over Mumbai may have killed a habit, but it was the defeat of East Bengal at home a few weeks later that underlined Bengaluru’s title credentials. Down a goal at the Fortress after Malsawmzuala’s momentary lapse of concentration, allowed East Bengal a lead in the 27th minute. Bengaluru needed to hit back and choose the 28th minute to do it. Eugeneson Lyngdoh burying a cross with a diving header. Kim then made it 2-1. And, in what was possibly the most ideal redemption. Zuala hit home from 30 yards to make it 3-1 and finish East Bengal off.
Chance gave Bengaluru a shot at the title at the Fortress again, this time with the greens of Salgaocar on the other side. The boys had left the pitch this time, last year in tears of sorrow. But that would change. Lyngdoh’s early opener and Len Doungel’s tap home from close at the death, confirmed that the only tears would be those of joy. The League title had been won at home, in front of the faithful. And to add that hint of poetic justice, the title was handed to Bengaluru at Bagan’s home the following week. Oh, the scripts football can write!
Amrinder, Mawia, Manju, Osano, Keegan, Johnson, Rino, Nishu, Chhuantea, Ranjan, Collins, Thoi, Lyngdoh, Shankar, Len Doungel, Hangal, Alwyn, Malsawmzuala, Beikho, Kim Song Yong, Chhetri, Udanta, Daniel, Vineeth
Coach: Ashley Westwood