Punjab FC roared to success with a convincing 3-1 win over Bengaluru FC at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in New Delhi on Saturday to bag their second victory in the Indian Super League (ISL) 2023-24 season. Goals came in thick and fast in a fixture that produced end-to-end, exciting action, much like what had transpired when the two teams squared off in the Garden City earlier in this campaign.

Opening the scoring was Bengaluru FC skipper Sunil Chhetri, whose pass unlocked Naorem Roshan Singh on the left flank. The seasoned talisman sprinted admirably well to get to the end of the cross by Roshan, and beat an aerial challenge by Greek centre-back Dimitris Chatziisaias to nod the ball into the back of the net.

The Blues were naturally expected to make the most of this early advantage, but the game slipped away from their hands courtesy of a seamless offensive performance by Punjab FC and their bolstered attacking contingent. The league debutants responded with a picture perfect replica of the goal scored by Chhetri, albeit from the opposite flank. Fullback Tekcham Abhishek Singh whipped in a cross for former NorthEast United FC forward Wimar Jordan Gil, who demonstrated laudable aerial prowess to leap forward and hammer the ball in through his head to draw the scores level.

Bengaluru FC has taken a conscious effort to strengthen their defence in the winter transfer window, but conceding thrice on an away turf isn’t the most ideal of starts to their activities in the January market.

Luka Majcen was a terrific presence in the Punjab FC frontline throughout the game, using his strong frame and quick burst of pace to breach past the Bengaluru FC backline and discover opportunities. One of his efforts was saved by Gurpreet Singh Sandhu in the 41st minute, but the Slovenian didn’t break a sweat in rounding off a counter attack initiated by Madih Talal in the 71st minute of the game. Talal showed good feet to lay out a terrific pass for Majcen and the striker strolled past the disoriented backline to receive and then strike the ball successfully past Sandhu.

After settling one goal, Talal decided to add another one to his tally by jumping upon a defensive error by Aleksandar Jovanović and storming into the box in his carefree demeanour to chip the ball over Sandhu and seal the deal for the home team. Chhetri had a chance to bring the game back on level terms after Majcen’s strikethrough. Reliance Foundation Young Champs (RFYC) graduate Chingambam Shivaldo Singh curled in a peach of a cross for his captain from the right flank, but Chhetri was unable to keep his headed shot on target, thus allowing Punjab FC to secure the three points lock, stock, and barrel, after Talal’s goal.

Key Performer of the Match

Madih Talal (Punjab FC)

The attacking midfielder was the architect of their previous win against Chennaiyin FC, and he rose to the occasion again tonight by recording a goal and an assist to his name. Impressively, he completed 94% of his 35 passes, made two crosses, and created four goal-scoring opportunities to deliver a highly impactful individual performance.

What’s next for both teams?

Punjab FC will next play Kerala Blasters FC on February 12, whereas Bengaluru FC will host Chennaiyin FC on February 7.

Brief Scores

Punjab FC 3 (Wimar Jordan Gil 23’, Luka Majcen 71’, Madih Talal 77’) – 1 Bengaluru FC (Sunil Chhetri 15’)    

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