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Indian Super League

Resilient Bengaluru FC play the waiting game to perfection

17:23 GMT 17/03/2019
Bengaluru FC vs FC Goa
For large parts of the game, Gaurs were favourites but Bengaluru held on and capitalised when it mattered...

Bengaluru FC are no strangers to anguish in the final. They were dealt a painful lesson last year by Chennaiyin FC but it was the turn of the Blues to dish out the punishment a year later, on Sunday.

FC Goa, who dominated the final, were handed a 1-0 defeat after Rahul Bheke came up with the match-winner deep into the second half of extra time. Bheke, who had struggled in the final last year, had gained a measure of redemption with the winner but the nature of the result was proof that Bengaluru had learnt quite a few lessons from the fateful final last year.

They were helped by a moment of madness from Ahmed Jahouh who got himself sent off in the first half of extra-time. The Moroccan was the outstanding player of the match, by some distance, before he decided to kick the title literally out of Goa's grasp.

But Bengaluru's resilience in weathering the wave of Goan attacks in the second-half and alacrity in making the most of a set-piece late on has to credited.

It was an edgy start to the final and understandably so. Two teams who have serious attacking arsenal were always likely to feel each other out at the start of a game of this magnitude.

Both defences looked nervous and there were a few mistakes at both ends in the first half. However, nothing so drastic as to lead to the opening goal.

FC Goa, so used to having their way with the ball, were made to work for the ball by Bengaluru FC who looked to exert themselves physically. Dimas Delgado was involved heavily though defensive midfielder Alex Barrera struggled to make an impact. For Goa, Jahouh was the pivotal figure, breaking up play and launching attacks with sweeping passes.

The likes of Edu Bedia found little space down the middle as Bengaluru closed the spaces down well and looked to be playing to a set plan. However, FC Goa still troubled Bengaluru down the wings with Jackichand getting in behind Nishu Kumar down the right wing on several occasions.

For all those incisive counter-attacks, Naveen Kumar remained the busier of the goalkeepers. He had to be quick off his lines at least on two occasions to deny Miku who looked sharp in the first half.

After the break, something was bound to give and 10 minutes into the second half, Gaurs seemed to have stepped things up a bit as Bengaluru lost composure in midfield.

Goa, who were largely reliant on counter-attacks, started to boss possession and create chances at will. Coro, Bedia went a touch away from heading them into the lead while Jahouh forced Gurpreet into a save.

Dimas was left waging a lone battle, with both Barrera and Xisco struggling. It was no surprise to see Carles Cuadrat pull out the former and send in Luisma.

Goa were almost left to rue their misses late on when Miku capitalised on a loose ball after Goa failed to clear a ball into the box. The Venezuelan, however, hit the post with a cute effort from close range.

It was Miku who would be involved in a tussle with Jahouh that ended with the Moroccan's studs on his stomach and the referee had no choice but to show a second yellow to the Goan player. That moment changed the game around as Bengaluru hogged possession and exerted pressure on Goa.

Still, the game could have gone into the penalties where the odds would have evened out. But Bengaluru had to make the most of the advantage before 120 minutes and how fitting was it that it came from a set-piece, something that Cuadrat is an expert at.

Cuadrat, who watched Albert Roca's men fall in the final last year, has taken a resilient team a step further. Well deserved!