ISL final: Chennaiyin FC stun Bengaluru FC, become two-time champions
Chennaiyin FC beat Bengaluru FC 3-2 at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium in Bangalore on Saturday to be crowned ISL 2017-18 champions and become the second two-time champions of the league.football Updated: Mar 18, 2018 09:47 IST
Chennaiyin FC love playing party-poopers! In 2015, they ruined Christmas in Goa with a 3-2 win and on Saturday, they made Bengaluru FC relive the night the I-League got away. So far, all Indian Super League (ISL) titles have been shared by Chennaiyin FC and ATK. (ISL final highlights)
It didn’t seem that way when Sunil Chhetri scored in the ninth minute. But Chennaiyin FC sneaked in two headed goals from central defender Mailson Alves (17th, 45th) making it 12 in 21 games that they have scored from corners or free-kicks.
The killer blow was landed softly by Raphael Agusto (67th) wrapping his boot around the ball like he was caressing it. Miku headed one back in the 91st but Bengaluru ran out of time.
The pass of the night came early. Miku managed a moment where cheekiness fused seamlessly into class and produced a move that fetched the final’s first goal. Facing his own goal, Miku flicked John Johnson’s innocuous pass to Udanta Singh. It wrong-footed the Chennaiyin backline and simultaneously unlocked the speediest player on the pitch to hare down the right.
Udanta’s delivery went askew because it took a deflection but how much chaos Miku had spread into the usually organised Chennaiyin backline could be gauged by Dhanpal Ganesh trailing Chhetri while he dived in for the header.
Whoever trails, said Chennaiyin coach John Gregory on Friday, would have a mountain to climb. Well, his boys made it look like climbing a mound. When Alves rose to meet Gregory Nelson’s corner-kick, everyone defending the set-piece seemed leaden-footed in a Bengaluru team that lined up 3-4-3 because Subhasish Bose was suspended. 1-1 and the night was still young.
Like against FC Goa, Chennaiyin weathered the early storm and slowly began to push back. Yes, they weren’t defending as assuredly with Inigo Calderon and Bikramjit Singh not bringing their A game but they compensated for by flinging bodies inside the area and showing a lot of heart everywhere on the pitch.
For BFC, aggravating the worst time to concede was that Dimas Delgado’s injury --- Bengaluru coach Albert Roca was getting Victor Perez ready for his debut and didn’t see the goal.
Leading at half-time would have been up Chennaiyin street given how much they back themselves defensively. And so it was. Chhetri could have livened up proceedings but with Chennaiyin right-back Calderon manning the goal, India’s leading goalscorer blasted into the sky. There would have been a fourth goal from a header but Chhetri was denied by a superb save from Karanjit Singh.
And yes, they could have got a penalty when Calderon felled Nishu Kumar but that could only be said with the hindsight of television replays.
But this was the ISL final and so for the third time in four editions, there was a late goal. The ball was at Chettri’s feet when the final whistle was blown and then the corner of the stadium that had been out-shouted all night found their voice.
“Johno-best English import” was a banner that still hadn’t been taken down ---- the fans stays solidly behind the home team and Chhetri in particular --- and somehow it didn’t seem inappropriate even though John Johnson hadn’t won. But John Gregory did and he had Chennaiyin FC’s chief technical officer Amoy Ghoshal, whom he had publicly credited with team building, in a bearhug.