Bengaluru FC managed to eke out a narrow 1-0 victory over Chennaiyin FC in the Indian Super League (ISL) on Friday. Sunil Chhetri’s second half penalty was the difference in the end in an intensely fought battle between two well-matched sides.
The match began on a sour note as Anirudh Thapa picked up an injury in the 16th minute after a clash with Ashique Karuniyan and had to be substituted. This clearly had an impact on Chennaiyin’s ability to play their natural passing game even though his replacement Edwin Vanspaul was doing the basics right. Thapa’s incessant running from midfield and his ability to combine with the likes of Rafael Crivellaro, Chhangte and Isma was however difficult to replicate for the 28-year-old Vanspaul.
On the other hand, Bengaluru had much of the possession in the first half as the returning Dimas Delgado and Erik Paartalu controlled the tempo from midfield. Head coach Carles Cuadrat decided to revert to a back four using Harmanjot Khabra and Ashique as his two full backs who were tasked with bombing forward at every opportunity. They also had a couple of good chances in the first half, both from crosses into the box. The first one fell to Rahul Bheke who could not keep a free header within goal. The second came the way of centre-back Juanan who could only manage to direct his header straight into the hands of goalkeeper Vishal Kaith.
The second half saw a similar pattern of play with Bengaluru having more of the ball and Chennaiyin trying to use Chhangte’s pace on the counter. Suresh Wangjam was the undisputed star in the Bengaluru midfield though as the youngster covered every single blade of grass on the pitch in an inspiring performance. Never afraid to go into a tackle against a bigger opponent, he seemed to be doing everything right as chances for Chennaiyin seemed to dry up. Eventually, Cleiton Silva was fouled inside the area by Vanspaul in the 56th minute and the resultant penalty was converted coolly by Sunil Chhetri (1-0).
For Chennaiyin, much of the good work came from Deepak Tangri in midfield and Chhangte further forward. While the former recycled possession continually all night, the latter was decisive in one on one duels, getting the better of Khabra umpteen times. It was his well-directed cross towards the end of the half that resulted in Chennaiyin’s best chance of the match. Unfortunately for Chennaiyin, substitute Fatkhullo Fatkhuloev could only aim his volley into the side-net. The save of the match however was made by Kaith after he tipped aside a fine attempt from Dimas from way outside the penalty box. Chennaiyin were unlucky with a penalty decision of their own after the ball seemed to hit Ashique’s hand from a headed attempt but the referee decided otherwise.
The last quarter of the match saw Chennaiyin dominate possession as they looked for the equaliser but the Bengaluru defence stood strong and thwarted all their attempts. They were also able to send in Fran Gonzalez and Pratik Chaudhari at the very end to conserve their lead and see off the match.
With this victory, Bengaluru overtook Chennaiyin in the points table and are currently third with 5 points from 3 matches. Chennaiyin dropped down to sixth with 4 points from their 3 matches. The Blues face NorthEast United next while the Marina Machans will line up against Mumbai City FC as the group stages further unfold.