Mumbai: Bengaluru exorcised the demons of the last year’s finale, after securing a narrow 1-0 victory over 10-man FC Goa in the finals of the Indian Super League at the Mumbai Football Arena on Sunday.
Rahul Bheke’s header deep into extra time was enough as Bengaluru scripted history, becoming just the third side to win the trophy.
Albert Serrano dropped to the bench for Bengaluru as Alex Barrera slotted alongside Xisco Hernandez and Dimas Delgado in the base. Meanwhile, Goa fielded the same eleven as against Mumbai City in the semi-finals, with Hugo Boumous not finding a place.
The first half turned out to be a tight affair as as both defences stood up to the task. Goa started off on a bright note, mainly attacking through Jackichand Singh on the right who made best use of his lethal pace.
However, Miku had the first real chance of the night and came close to scoring after a lovely one-two between Sunil Chhetri and Nishu Kumar found the striker. The Venezuelan beat the Goan defenders but couldn’t get past Naveen, who came off quickly off his line.
Goa came close through on the other end during the 13th minute as Jahouh found the menacing Jacki on the right with a accurate long ball. The winger swung a cross for Coro, who headed it wide of the post.
The Miku-Chhetri combination once again troubled the Goan defence. Dimas stole possession in the middle, finding Chhetri on the left who whipped a cross for Miku who headed it wide.
Mourtada Fall picked up the first booking of the night for a rash challenge on Miku from behind. But Goa suffered a huge blow, losing captain Mandar Rao Desai who pulled his hamstring on a counter attack just before the interval. Sergio Lobera made an immediate substitution and it was a surprise one as Saviour Gama took over at left-back.
Goa continued with the same intent after the break, coming close on multiple occasions but lacked that cutting edge in the final third. During the 56th minute, Miku again found himself on the receiving end of a glorious pass from Xisco Hernandez from the set piece but failed to give his side the lead.
That was followed by two close chances for the Gaurs. Bengaluru switched off after the break and major lapses in concentration almost came close to giving Goa the lead but they failed to apply the finishing touches. First, a lazy pass from Delgado let Jacki snatch the ball. He exchanged an exquisite pass with Coro, before firing a tame shot towards Gurpreet.
Goa continued to press and a minute later, Brandon Fernandes cut inside and curled it for Edu Bedia who headed with a deft touch, only to find the gloves of Gurpreet. Luisma came on for Barerra as Carles Cusdrat aimed to turn on the heat.
Bengaluru, who had failed to record a single shot on target by then, had a golden opportunity in the 80th minute. Udanta broke free on the right and fired a cross towards Chhetri, who chested the ball. Xisco soon won possession and slided a back heel pass for Miku into the box. One-on-one with the keeper, the Bengaluru number seven fluffed his big moment by nicking his shot towards the post.
Lobera didn’t with tinker his tactics as the game headed into extra time. Sunil Chhetri was kept quiet for majority of the game with the Goan defence manned well by Fall and Pena.
Bengaluru attacked numbers and could’ve shockingly put the game to bed after Goa pushed bodies forward during the dying minutes. Udanta once again pinged in a lovely cross for Miku but Fall bailed Goa out of trouble with a blocked shot across the face as the game headed into extra time.
There was drama before the end of the first half as Jahouh picked his second booking for a kick on Miku. Despite being down to 10 men, Lobera enforced his first attacking change in the form of Manvir Singh for Jackichand Singh.
Cuadrat also brought in fresh legs in the form of Kean Lewis and Boithang Haokip. However, deep into the dying stages, Bengaluru found a goalscorer in the unlikeliest of sources in Bheke. The defender leaped high and looped his header into the net. Not even Naveen’s fingertips could stop it from going in.