Miku’s brace and Chhetri’s strike help Bengaluru beat Pune

Bengaluru FC consolidated their position at the top of the Hero Indian Super League (ISL) 2017-18 points table by coming from behind to beat FC Pune City 3-1 at the Shree Shiv Chhatrapati Sports Complex Stadium in Pune on Thursday. Adil Khan opened the scoring for Pune but a double from Miku and a Sunil Chhetri strike in injury-time proved to be enough for the Blues. Pune’s Baljit Sahni was also sent off early in the second period.

The game started at an even pace as both teams played free-flowing football, taking it in turns to carry forward attacks into the opposition half. Bengaluru’s Chhetri and Pune’s Emiliano Alfaro were always in the thick of things, keeping the defenders on their toes while trying to fashion openings.

Bengaluru had the first real chance in the 26th minute from a free-kick right on the edge of the 18-yard-box. Chhetri fashioned a shot around the wall, but Pune custodian Vishal Kaith read it well, and gathered the ball.

Chhetri thought he had given his team the lead two minutes later, but the officials deemed him to have handled the ball before rounding off Kaith to score. He got a yellow for his troubles even though it may have been a bit harsh on the Bengaluru captain who had used his shoulders.

It was the Stallions who broke the deadlock from their first chance of note in the 35th minute. Isaac Vanmalsawma came in from the left flank, and whipped in an inch-perfect cross into the box where Khan was at hand to score with a diving header.

Pune could have doubled their advantage in the first minute of added time. A corner from Jonatan Lucca beat everybody in the box and came to Diego Carlos. His left-footed shot though was well saved by the Blues’ keeper Lalthuammawia Ralte. That was the final chance of the half, as Pune headed into the break with a 1-0 advantage.

After the restart, Bengaluru stepped on the pedal from the word go. The 51st minute saw Chhetri being put through on the left flank, and Bengaluru’s skipper cut in and fired a right-footed shot. Kaith though, was equal to it with a smart save.

The very next minute, the Stallions countered with an attack of their own when Carlos gathered a long cross from Alfaro, and he cut inside to take the shot. The ball however, flashed agonizingly over the crossbar.

The hosts then created problems of their own as they went a man down 11 minutes into the half. Sahni’s rash challenge on Braulio Nobrega got him a second yellow as Pune were reduced to 10 men for the second successive match.

The Blues took full advantage of the situation by equalising in the 64th minute. From one of their attacks, substitute Edu Garcia cut back the ball from the left flank, and Miku was placed perfectly for an easy tap-in that gave him his fifth goal in as many games.

Bengaluru took the lead a quarter of an hour later after Udanta Singh’s brilliant run into the penalty box led to the ball being played into the path of Garcia. His first-time shot rebounded off defender Rafael Lopez, but when it came to Miku, the Venezuelan chested the ball down and rifled it home for his and Bengaluru’s second.

Chhetri then put the icing on the cake in the sixth minute of added time when he was put through on goal after a lovely one-two with substitute Toni Dovale. India’s leading goal-scorer came up with a lovely dink to beat Kaith and give the score-line a flattering look as the Blues bagged maximum points to go three points clear at the top of the table.

MATCH AWARDS

Club Award: Bengaluru FC

Swift Moment of the Match: Miku

DHL Winning Pass of the Match: Isaac Vanmalsawma

Amul Fittest Player: Udanta Singh

Emerging Player: Isaac Vanmalsawma

Hero of the Match: Miku

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