Bengaluru, March 17: Chennaiyin FC were crowned champions for the second time in Hero Indian Super League history after a valiant 3-2 comeback win against mighty Bengaluru FC at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium, Bengaluru, on Saturday.
Sunil Chhetri had opened the scoring as early as the ninth minute but a brace from Mailson Alves and a beautiful goal from Raphael Augusto ensured that the unfancied Chennaiyin lifted the title once again after 2015 when they defeated FC Goa, also at home. Miku scored a late goal but it hardly mattered in the end.
It was a brilliant night of enthralling football as both sides went for the jugular. The margins were fine in the end, but the scoreline was proof of Chennaiyin’s ruthlessness in front of goal.
It took just nine minutes for the first goal and it was the usual suspect Chhetri who capitalised on a deflected cross from Udanta Singh to score a lovely low header. It was Mailson Alves who had deflected the cross but would make amends later with two goals.
Gregory Nelson’s dangerous foot put in a corner and Alves rose highest to equalise just eight minutes after his side had gone behind. At this point, both teams were on an equal footing. Chennaiyin’s defenders were brilliant though, with Inigo Calderon making a heroic block when Dimas Delgado took a thumping shot towards goal at the half an hour mark.
Chhetri and Miku both tried their luck from distance as the first half was coming to a close but Alves scored again to give Chennaiyin the lead at a crucial juncture. It was deja vu for Bengaluru when Nelson whipped in another tasty corner and Alves was impeccable in the timing of his leap to make it 2-1 to Chennaiyin at the stroke of half time.
Gurpreet was called into action soon into the second half with Nelson testing him with a right-footer and moments later Udanta went flying down the right, only to see his cross go across the face of goal without troubling Chennaiyin.
The turning point came in the 67th minute when Nelson was at it again – this time however, Jeje Lalpekhlua, who hardly made a mark on the game, made a vital contribution. Nelson started the move by finding Jeje, who chose Raphael Augusto in a good position. Augusto finished the move off with a curling finish which left Gurpreet with no chance at all. At 3-1, Bengaluru had no chance but to go all-out attack.
Karanjit made a sharp save off Chhetri’s header in the 74th minute just after hitting a freekick straight into the wall and before Miku and John Johnson collided with each other rather than head the ball into the net.
Chhetri had a glorious opportunity to make the last few minutes exciting but he inexplicably blazed the ball over the bar with a couple of minutes left. Miku scored in added time though, converting from Udanta’s cross, but it was too late by then. Chennaiyin ran down the clock and emerged champions to equal ATK’s record.