Bengaluru, March 17: The home curse of the Indian Super League finals, where the hosts have never managed to win, struck again as Chennaiyin FC bagged their second ISL crown with a 3-2 win over Bengaluru FC at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium on Saturday (March 17). Mailson Alves' double and Raphael Augusto's curling effort were enough to deny BFC, who took the lead through Sunil Chhetri early in the game, the ISL title in their debut season. Miku struck towards the end for BFC.
In the last three years, the home team has never managed to win the ISL final - FC Goa lost to Chennaiyin FC at the Fatorda in 2015, ATK beat Kerala Blasters in Kochi in 2016 and this time around, BFC were beaten at the Kanteerava. BFC were the leaders in the league phase of the ISL but were cruelly denied the glory in the final.
Chennaiyin FC coach John Gregory had confidently claimed that one of the goals would come off a set-piece. Four of the goals in the game were headers, two of which were scored off corners. The first goal, expected to set the tone of the final, was scored against the run of play.
Bengaluru FC took the lead through a wonderful counter-attack in the ninth game, starting from the back. John Johnson was given a free run and he dribbled from the back to Miku at the centre-line. The Venezuelan forward Miku took a faint touch to send the ball through Chennaiyin FC defenders Sereno Henrique and Jerry Lalrinzuala. Udanta then showed his pace, paced ahead of them and squared to Sunil Chhetri at the centre, who tapped in with his head.
The goal, however, did not affect the morale of Gregory's Chennaiyin FC. They retaliated in fact, through a corner-kick by Gregory Nelson in the 17th minute. Mailson Alves rose above all by taking support from captain Sereno Henrique's shoulders and tucked it into the far post. Set-pieces were always Chennaiyin FC's strength and BFC have themselves to blame for letting Mailson go scot-free there.
Dimas thought he'd scored, but @I_CALDERON_14 with a fantastic block!— #HeroISLFinal (@IndSuperLeague) March 17, 2018
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Both teams were equally pumped up after that. Moments of individual brilliance by Miku and Dimas Delgado were negated by the alert Inigo Calderon, who made a goalline clearance after a shot by Delgado in the 30th minute. BFC prodded Karanjit Singh with a couple of long-rangers but nothing threatened Chennaiyin as much as the chance that was saved by Calderon. It didn't help BFC when Udanta Singh was wrongly adjudged offside after chipping in a through-ball by Bheke.
Mailson Alves, meanwhile, powered Chennaiyin FC's second one, off another corner from the right side when Bengaluru were down to 10 after Delgado had suffered an injury. This time, he ran behind from the post, brushed aside Juanan Gonzalez and slotted his header into the centre of the net at the stroke of half-time.
BFC had eight corners and nothing to show for it. Chennai, on the other hand, had two goals in five flag-kicks. Chennaiyin FC goalkeeper Karanjit Singh even denied Chhetri from point-blank range off a corner in the 74th minute. John Johnson too was prevented from tapping in after a seductive ball by Miku from the sideline.
They won four corner two minutes after the restart but their work on set-pieces really needed an upheaval. At the other end, Gurpreet Singh Sandhu gloved away Gregory Nelson's testing effort from the edge of the box.
Bengaluru FC threw all their men in. Boithan Haokip and Erik Paartalu were taken off to accommodate striker Daniel Segovia and wing-back Nishu Kumar. But the hosts were getting frustrated and missing out on the small passes at the most crucial moments.
That frustration got to them. Nishu Kumar ventured out into the half-line and got his challenge wrong on Gregory Nelson. Chennaiyin FC powered forward and Jeje Lalpekhlua charged into the box and played it back to Raphael Augusto, who curled it into the far right's bottom corner, past a diving Gurpreet.
Chennaiyin FC had a two-goal cushion to see off the game. Chhetri missed out on scoring BFC's second five minutes before time, shooting over the top with an open goal in front of him. Majority of the 25,753 in attendance let out a loud moan. Miku, however, eventually struck in the 90th minute, unmarked at the centre to punch Udanta Singh's cross from the right. But the goal was too late to push the tie into extra time.
Tempers obviously flared after the final whistle on the pitch. Dhanpal Ganesh, the Chennaiyin FC midfielder who headed in the winner when these two sides met in the league stage, was involved in a minor scuffle with a couple of BFC players and officials but the situation was quickly controlled.
Bengaluru FC 2 (Sunil Chhetri 9, Miku 90) lost to Chennaiyin FC 3 (Mailson Alves 17, 45, Raphael Augusto 67)