Bengaluru: After getting back to their usual winning ways with the recently concluded Durand Cup, Bengaluru FC made a return to the garden city in style with a 1-0 win over visitors Northeast United FC in the Hero ISL 2022-23.
Playing at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium after a long gap of 951 days owing to the pandemic, the BFC lads under new manager Simon Grayson made sure the fans didn’t go home disappointed from the fortress.
The match began with the West Block Blues customarily unfurling a huge tifo that read – ‘This is Bengaluru – Home, nothing like it!’.
In the 6th minute, midfielder Bruno tried a long ranger shot, which was clumsily but safely blocked by NE goalkeeper Arindam. The Blues had a couple of set-piece chances around the 10 minute mark, but couldn’t make the most of them.
NEUFC had a great chance to take the lead in the game in the 19th minute, but the striker missed a 1v1 opportunity with the keeper. Similarly, in the 23rd minute, talismanic striker Sunil Chhetri had a chance to head one for a goal but missed the mark by quite a bit. A similar instance followed for NE, where they missed a short regulation ranger by a yard.
After a tight first half, with both teams yet to find a place on the scoresheet, the second half saw much more pressing by the visitors. However, they failed to be clinical in the final third, thus missing opportunities to take the lead.
In the 63rd minute, coach Grayson brought in a couple of fresh legs to replace workhorse Krishna and Suresh, with Javi and Jayesh being brought in to bolster the midfield. This shifted the scales in favour of BFC, who managed to make inroads into the NEUFC defence.
With 5 good chances between the 63rd and 75th minute, BFC had a chance to score their first goal, but that had to wait until the 87th minute, where BFC defender Alan Costa stood tall and headed one past a helpless Arindam at the NEUFC goal.
After over two years, the 19,500+ crowd at the Kanteerava went wild with joy, having finally watched BFC score a goal at the fortress. All seemed done and dusted until 4 minutes of extra time was added on.
Chaos ensued in the dying moments as NEUFC thought they had scored an equalizer and done enough to steal back points from BFC. However, the referee and linesman seemed to have spotted an infringement that no one else did, and the goal was disallowed, much to the agony and anger of the highlanders. Adding salt to injury, the NEUFC head coach was shown a straight red and sent off for dissent against the match officials.
A few moments later, in what would have seemed an eternity for the West Block Blues, the referee blew the final whistle, putting to rest the match as well as the anxiety among the fans.
Alan Costa was awarded the Hero of the Match for the winning header. Coach Grayson and Captain Chhetri were all praise for the fans who turned up in large numbers to support the blues.
Final Scoreline: Bengaluru FC 1 – 0 Northeast United FC
Bengaluru FC play their next game as visitors to Chennai, as they face Chennaiyin FC on October 14th.
Report by: Sudeep Shenoy
Photos Courtesy: Bengaluru FC Media Team