Bengaluru FC were handed their second defeat of the season by visitors Chennaiyin FC in the Indian Super League (ISL) match which ended 1-2 at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium in Bengaluru on Sunday.
Sunil Chhetri equalised in the second half after Jeje Lalpekhlua put the visitors in the lead but Dhanapal Ganesh scored the match-winner in the 88th minute to seal a well-deserved win for the Super Machans.
While Gurpreet Singh Sandhu made his imminent return between the sticks after serving his two-match suspension, Albert Roca made five further changes from their 3-1 win away at FC Pune City. John Johnson, Nishu Kumar, Antoni Dovale, Edu Garcia and Lenny Rodrigues returned to the lineup. Surprisingly, Udanta Singh and Erik Paartalu were on the bench.
Roca’s counterpart John Gregory made four changes of his own as Francisco Fernandes, Bikramjit Singh, Raphael Augusto and Jeje Lalpekhlua were ushered back in by the former Aston Villa manager.
It took only four and a half minutes for Jeje to draw first blood, silencing the home crowd. Francisco Fernandes played the ball to Inigo Calderon from the right flank whose shot was blocked by Lenny Rodrigues but the rebound was deflected off Sunil Chhetri towards Jeje Lalpekhlua was slotted the ball home past a hapless Gurpreet.
Tempers arose quickly as Harmanjot Singh Khabra and Jude Nworuh were involved in a long-embroiled tussle which the Bengaluru FC man was shown a yellow card for. Khabra then escaped a second booking and a subsequent red card in the 22nd minute when he elbowed down Jeje Lalpekhlua inside his own box which the referee Raktim Saha turned a blind eye on, denying the visitors a clear penalty kick.
The only time Albert Roca's men looked like getting an equaliser in the first half was when Edu Garcia's grounded shot from range rebounded off the upright and Henrique Sereno made a crucial clearance with Chhetri lurking around inside the box.
Chennaiyin's defensive shape was well-organised and Bengaluru FC found it hard to breach as the ISL debutants had zero shots on target in the first half, quite a rare sight for the home crowd.
Roca realising his mistake in team selection immediately threw the pacy Udanta Singh into the mix in the beginning of the second half and the result showed just seventeen seconds later from resumption.
The Manipur-born winger negotiated three men and found Miku near the byline who then nudged it back to Chhetri, who failed to make a proper connection with his first touch with only the 'keeper to beat.
Looking a more revived side after the break, the intent of the hosts were pretty clear but Mailson Alves and Henrique Sereno made sure the Bengaluru FC attackers were kept quiet throughout, especially Miku, who had an average outing considering his earlier exploits in the league.
Around the hour mark, Jeje's lack of pace failed him as he found himself in a one on one situation with Nishu Kumar from a counter. However, Rahul Bheke sized the former Mohun Bagan striker up and his shot was blocked. Francisco Fernandes failed to make much from that loose ball as he blasted it over the bar.
Raphael Augusto continued to impress by creating a few chances including a shot from close range that Gurpreet managed to save but his outing was abruptly ended early when he was substituted off for Rene Mihelic, citing an injury.
The equaliser did arrive as Sunil Chhetri was astonishingly left unmarked and Antoni Dovale's lobbed the ball into the box for the Bengaluru FC skipper to equalise from an angled shot.
Just when the home crowd had thought they had stolen back two points from Chennaiyin FC, Dhanapal Ganesh rose the tallest to head home as Rene Mihelic turned provider with a lofted ball into the box.
The dying moments of the match was ill-tempered as Delgado launched the ball towards Mihelic's face and a scuffle broke out after the full-time whistle.
With the win, Chennaiyin FC went level on points with Bengaluru but were behind by an inferior goal difference. They go back home to face Kerala Blasters while Bengaluru FC welcome Jamshedpur FC in their next fixture.