Bengaluru, Karnataka: Bengaluru FC reclaimed the top spot in the Hero Indian Super League (Hero ISL) 2018-19 table with a 2-1 win over NorthEast United FC. Despite creating the better of the chances on the night, some casual finishing and a brilliant Gurpreet Singh Sandhu in the Bengaluru goal denied Eelco Schattorie’s men a memorable win at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium.
The win helped the Blues get back to winning ways after their first loss of the season against Mumbai City FC last week.
After a cagey start to the match, Bengaluru drew first blood just after 14 minutes. A beautifully worked set-piece routine by the Blues freed up Udanta Singh inside the Highlanders’ penalty box. The youngster could have gone for a shot but opted for a hard low cross into the danger zone. The ball took a touch off NorthEast defender Mislav Komorski and ended up inside the net as the home team took the lead.
NorthEast dominated the possession for most of the first 30 minutes but did little to put Bengaluru goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu under any serious pressure. Komorski could have made amends for the own goal around the 25-minute mark, but couldn’t keep his header on target.
Despite trailing in the possession stats, Bengaluru were engineering some dangerous chances of their own. Udanta found himself in a similar position again and played in another dangerous cross inside NorthEast’s six-yard box. Sunil Chhetri dove in at the far post but was inches wide from getting the telling connection.
The close call seemed to spark the Highlanders into action and the away team suddenly started looking a lot more dangerous after the 35-minute mark. Gurpreet was called into action twice in a matter of minutes, as the Bengaluru no. 1 had to be on his toes to keep out Reagan Singh and Mato Grgic.
The Highlanders ended the first-half strongly but couldn’t find the equaliser as Bengaluru went into the break 1-0 up.
With Komorski pulling up with an injury early in the second-half, NorthEast head coach Eelco Schattorie brought on new signing Panagiotis Triadis and the midfielder almost made an immediate impact. His teasing ball for Ogbeche into the box created panic in the Bengaluru defence. It needed a bold dive from Gurpreet to take the ball away from the striker’s feet, which brought down Ogbeche in turn. The penalty appeal from the away team was, however, turned down by the referee.
Ogbeche and Gurpreet were in the thick of the action yet again just minutes later. The NorthEast striker’s diving header was blocked by Gurpreet’s feet even though the goalkeeper didn’t know much about it. It could have easily gone through his legs, but luck was on the Bengaluru man’s side for this one.
Gurpreet’s good fortune, however, lasted only a few minutes longer. Robert Lalthlamuana’s measured long ball sent Federico Gallego through and the Uruguayan made no mistakes as he slotted the ball through Gurpreet’s legs into the net.
The equaliser opened the match up and end-to-end action ensued. Ogbeche got another golden opportunity to get his name on the scoresheet only to be denied by Gurpreet. The custodian had to stand strong yet again shortly after to deny Triadis from an 1v1 situation.
With NorthEast looking the likeliest to grab the next goal, there was another twist in the tale. On the 71st minute, substitute Chencho Gyeltshen slid in to meet Juanan’s knock on and restored Bengaluru’s lead. Incidentally, it was Chencho’s acrobatic late goal in the reverse fixture earlier in the season which denied the Highlanders a win against Bengaluru.
Ogbeche should have restored parity six minutes later. With only Gurpreet to beat following a quick break, his attempted chip sailed over the bar. The Bengaluru goalkeeper, however, had one more important save to make to secure the three points. In the dying minutes, he made a flying save to keep out Juan Mascia and ensured the triumph for the Blues.