The entertaining match was infused with drama in the second half with a red card and the home team’s botched penalty.
Chennai: Bengaluru FC took a giant step towards the ISL4 play-offs with a 3-1 win over 10-man Chennaiyin FC here on Tuesday. The ISL debutants are now runaway leaders with 30 points from 14 matches. Chennaiyin, on the other hand, have some work to do to reach the next round. The entertaining match was infused with drama in the second half with a red card and the home team’s botched penalty.
The opening half kept fans enthralled as both teams went for each other’s neck. Bengaluru stunned the home crowd even before they had settled in their seats by taking the lead in the second minute.
Captain Sunil Chhetri cushioned Harmanjot Singh Khabra’s deep cross from the right for Boithang Haokip to slot home from just outside the six-yard box. The ball went in after grazing Chennaiyin goalkeeper Karanjit Singh’s left shin.
The goal was testament to Bengaluru’s combination play as right-back Khabra had joined the attack swiftly to whip in Udanta Singh’s cut-back. Gregory Nelson led Chennaiyin’s response with a sensational run on the left but his shot lacked conviction. The Dutch winger tested BFC goalie Gurpreet Singh a few minutes later with a useful effort.
Venezuelan forward Miku, the second highest scorer of the league with 10 goals including nine in seven away games, failed to do justice to Chhetri’s crisp pass inside the box. His instincts deserted him again when his captain floated a teasing ball from the left. A goal in that phase would have hit the hosts hard.
Chennaiyin got the equaliser in the 33rd minute from an unlikely source with right-winger Francisco Fernandes sneaking up on the much taller BFC defender Subhashish Bose to bury Jerry Lalrinzuala’s first-time cross from the left.
Both teams kept their feet on the gas in the second half as well in the fantastic, open match. Bengaluru reclaimed the lead after a thoughtful set-piece by the hour mark. Dimas Delgado lofted the ball from a 30-yard free kick for Chhetri to have a go at goal with a fine, first-time shot from the left side.
Chennaiyin’s chances of a comeback suffered a huge blow when their combative captain Henrique Sereno came off with a second yellow in the 71st minute. Referee Pranjal Banerjee was harsh to brandish a yellow for an innocuous hold on Miku in a counter and Sereno was understandably livid.
Banerjee awarded a generous penalty to the home team five minutes later for Khabra’s non-existent challenge on D. Ganesh. Jeje Lalpekhlua failed to unwrap the gift with a tame spot kick, which was saved by Gurpreet. Chhetri finally got the goal he richly deserved in added time but Chennaiyin’s fate had already been sealed.