ISL 5: Bengaluru beaten in Chennai as search for playoff spot continues

Bengaluru: Bengaluru FC suffered a shock 2-1 defeat to bottom-placed Chennaiyin FC after first-half goals from Jeje Lalpekhlua (33’) and Gregory Nelson (43’) extended the Blues’ wait to make the play-off stages of the Indian Super League, at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, in Chennai, on Saturday. Sunil Chhetri scored with a diving header (57’) to give Bengaluru a chance to restore parity, but it wasn’t to be on the night as John Gregory’s side held fort at the back to thwart the Blues’ attack.

Cuadrat had dropped more than just hints about rotating his squad in a bid to rest a few legs and try new combinations. Spaniard Luisma Villa was handed his first start in an eleven that included Xisco Hernandez and Miku. Udanta Singh, Dimas Delgado and Albert Serran were left out of a squad that had Rahul Bheke partner Juanan Gonzalez in the centre of defence.

A first half that that ambled on and didn’t look like offering much, changed in the 33rd minute when Lalpekhlua capitalised on Nishu Kumar’s failure to get rid of the ball in the box, and fired past Gurpreet Singh Sandhu to give the hosts a lead. The Bengaluru ’keeper managed to get a hand on it, but it wasn’t enough to prevent the ball from hitting the back of the net.

Miku had Bengaluru’s best chance moments earlier, after being put through by Xisco, but the Venezuelan’s attempt to fire inside the far post from the right rolled inches wide. Bengaluru would then concede again ten minutes later, when Nelson rose and tucked home a cross from Laldinliana Renthlei with his head in the 43rd minute to give Chennaiyin a shock 2-0 lead that they would take down the tunnel for the break.

The Blues, who needed a goal to spark the chase, got one in spectacular fashion within 12 minutes of the restart when Chhetri ghosted past the Chennayin defence to meet Xisco’s cross on the bounce, with a diving header that Karanjit Singh had no chance of keeping out.

Needed the elusive second goal, Cuadrat sent on youngster Edmund Lalrindika and winger Kean Lewis to replace Harmanjot Khabra and Luisma Villa. Miku created space for himself on several occasions, only to be dispossessed in the nick of time. Edmund’s lay off for Xisco in the closing stages was perhaps the Blues’ best chance for the equalizer, but for the Spaniard’s miscue allowing Karanjit to collect with ease.

The Blues travel to the capital city next, where a clash against Delhi Dynamos awaits them on 17th February.

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