Bengaluru: It was the late, late show once again as Bengaluru FC became the first Indian Super League side to win six games in a row, beating FC Pune City 2-1 at the Fortress in what was a clash for the stands, at the Kanteerava Stadium, in Bengaluru, on Friday. Udanta Singh’s stunning opener (11′) was levelled with a Rahul Bheke own goal (15′) before the defender redeemed himself with a late strike (88’), his second in three games, to give Carles Cuadrat all three points.
Otherwise cautious starters, Bengaluru seemed in the mood from the get-go and Udanta chose an absolute stunner in the 11th minute for his second goal in as many games. Picking a pass from Harmajot Khabra, Udanta charged into the Pune box, sold Chhuantea a dummy and after sending his former teammate the wrong way, smashed the ball into the roof with his left.
Bengaluru could have gone two up a couple of minutes later when Chencho Gyeltshen’s goal-bound shot took deflections from defender Matt Mills and then goalkeeper Kamaljit Singh before going out for a corner.
But it took all of four minutes after conceding for Pune to get back on level terms, albeit with a little help from a Bengaluru shirt after Rahul Bheke turned a Marko Stankovic cross into his own goal at the near post.
Earlier, Bengaluru started with Rahul Bheke and Harmanjot Khabra in defensive positions with Albert Serran ruled out, having sustained a thigh injury in the previous clash against Delhi Dynamos. Midfielder Dimas Delgado returned to the starting eleven after serving his one-game suspension, in a midfield trio that included him, Xisco Hernandez and Erik Paartalu.
The unfortunate equaliser did nothing but spur Bengaluru to attack with even more gusto and how the half ended 1-1 will still take some explaining from the Blues. Bengaluru could have well scored the team goal of the season when Erik Paartalu’s overhead clearance in the Blues box sparked a swift counter that saw Udanta, Dimas, Xisco and Chencho play their part in getting the ball to Chhetri only to see the captain’s shot on target kept out by Kamaljit. This was before an unmarked Chencho sent a looping header over the bar from ten yards out.
With the ball refusing to roll in from close, Bengaluru decided to try from distance when Chhetri laid the ball off for Erik Paartalu to smash from twenty five yards out in the 45th minute. The hit flew fast and hard only come crashing off the crossbar, capping off a frustrating half for the home side.
Cuadrat brought on Semboi Haokip for Chencho a little over the hour mark, but Bengaluru’s luck refused to alter. With twenty minutes to play, Udanta found himself with the ball in the box, skipped past his man and fired against the angle of the post once again. But, with the minutes ticking out, the stands came alive once again, spurring the Blues into a flurry of attacks.
After shots from Chhetri and Xisco had been blocked, Nishu picked up a clearance from a corner before lobbing it deep into the area for Khabra, who acrobatically volleyed over Kamaljit and his defenders to find Bheke unmarked. The defender would make no mistake from two yards out, slotting home to give Bengaluru a lead they would protect until the very end.
The win sent Bengaluru five points clear at the top, despite playing a game lesser than second placed FC Goa. The Blues travel to Guwahati next, where they take on NorthEast United on December 5th.