A vociferous crowd stood witness as Bengaluru FC defeated FC Goa 1-0 after 120 minutes of intense football to be crowned the 2018-19 Hero Indian Super League champions at the Mumbai Football Arena here on Sunday.
After no goals separated the teams at the end of normal time, Rahul Bheke (118’) headed home a corner to exorcize Bengaluru’s demons from last year’s final as they lifted the coveted trophy for the first time.
FC Goa was left to rue the red card Ahmed Jahouh picked up in the first half of extra-time as their wait for a first-ever ISL title continued.
Bengaluru came well prepared and threatened the Goa defense as early as the sixth minute. Nishu Kumar and Sunil Chhetri combined well on the left flank before the latter found Miku at the edge of the box. The Venezuelan striker shimmied his way past a crowd of defenders inside the box but a loose touch at the end of his spectacular solo run allowed goalkeeper Naveen Kumar to get to the ball.
Minutes later, Jahouh picked out Jackichand Singh’s run down the right flank with a delightful diagonal as Goa countered from their own half. The Indian wingers delivered a brilliant cross to the far post where an onrushing Ferran Corominas skied his volley wide.
Bengaluru had the better of the early exchanges as the trio of Miku, Chhetri and Udanta Singh found joy in the attacking third.
But Goa was dealt a blow before the break as Mandar Rao Dessai, in an attempt to get to a through-ball by Edu Bedia, succumbed to a hamstring injury and had to be replaced by young Saviour Gama at left-back.
After a sluggish start to the second half, FC Goa slowly took control of the game and started to boss possession.
They created chances at will and one such move saw Jackichand’s effort from a tight angle go straight into the gloves of Gurpreet Singh.
A few minutes later, Jackichand found Jahouh at the edge of the box. The Moroccan midfielder’s first-time shot, however, was saved by Gurpreet in goal. Cuadrat responded to Goa’s growing influence by making an attacking change as Luisma replaced Alejandro Barrera.
The Blues went ever so close in the 81st minute when Chhetri’s layoff inside the box was cleverly heeled into the path of Miku by Xisco Hernandez. The striker, with just the goalkeeper to beat, curled his strike onto the bar before seeing another strike blocked by Mourtada Fall in injury time.
The tempo slowed down as the game moved onto extra-time with both teams unwilling to take risks going forward. Bengaluru did, however, get their first shot on target when Xisco found space and time on the ball to hit a piledriver from outside the box.
Goa was reduced to 10 men in the 105th minute when Ahmed Jahouh retaliated to a challenge by Miku. The midfielder picked up a second yellow and had to take the lonely walk back.
That turned out to be a game-changer as Bengaluru assumed control of the game. And they got the precious goal they were looking for in the 116th minute. Dimas delivered a corner kick into the box for Bheke who produced a spectacular looping header that Naveen Kumar could only push on to the post and inside the goal as the Bengaluru faithful went into delirium.
The Blues stood firm to prevent a 10-man Goa from snatching a late equalizer and clinched their first Hero ISL trophy.