Bengaluru FC reclaimed the top spot in the Indian Super League (ISL) after a 2-1 victory over Avram Grant's NorthEast United FC at Bengaluru on Friday. Juanan Antonio (12') and Sunil Chhetri (51') struck for the visitors while Marcinho (45+2') scored for the home side.
Albert Roca made three changes to the starting XI from the previous match with Subhashish Bose, Lenny Rodrigues and Edu Garcia coming in for Rahul Bheke, Boithang Haokip and Dimas Delgado. Miku, Sunil Chhetri and Udanta Singh continued to form a front three with Edu Garcia slotting in behind them.
Avram Grant, on the other hand, made no changes to the side that beat high-flying Chennaiyin last week as Cezario Danilo Lopes continued to lead the line with Halicharan Narzary and Seiminlen Doungel on either flanks.
Both sides started in scratchy fashion as they gave away possession multiple times but they started finding their feet as the minutes wore on. It was the away side who had the first real chance of the game as Danilo skipped past Harmanjot Khabra before squaring the ball for Doungel. The winger’s inventive back-flick went just wide however.
The home side took the lead minutes later when defender Juanan Antonio rose the highest to head in Edu Garcia’s curling free-kick from the left-flank.
Chhetri had a chance to double Bengaluru’s advantage just minutes after the goal. Miku squared up the ball for Chhetri to pull the trigger but NorthEast custodian TP Rehenesh pulled off an incredible save with his right-foot to deny the Bengaluru skipper.
Grant’s men upped the ante after going behind but it was the visitors once again who came close to scoring when Lenny Rodrigues sent Edu Garcia on his way with a beautifully threaded ball but the Spaniard failed to finish with just Rehenesh to beat.
The away side were awarded a penalty right at the stroke of half-time when Subhashish Bose was adjudged to have handled the ball inside the box while blocking Doungel’s attempt. Marcinho stepped up to take the spot-kick and made no mistake as the two sides went into the half-time interval at 1-1.
A mighty error from defender Sambinha at the start of the second-half would hand the visitors the lead in the 51st minute. The central defender mis-kicked while attempting to clear Khabra’s cross and the ball fell to Chhetri who made no mistake to put Bengaluru in front once again.
The visitors attacked with renewed vigor in search of an equalizer as Grant made some tactical changes. Substitute John Jairo Mosquera had a chance to level the tie in the dying minutes after a cross from Nirmal Chettri but he headed over the crossbar agonizingly as the chance went begging.
Despite continuous efforts from NorthEast in the dying minutes, Roca's men held firm for the three points as they went back to the top of the ISL charts with 24 points.