The defender’s header in the 116th minute helps the side beat FC Goa 1-0
Rahul Bheke broke rival goalkeeper Naveen Kumar’s heart with a surprise extra-time header off a corner kick as Bengaluru FC sneaked home by a 1-0 margin in the final of the Indian Super League here on Sunday.
Naveen’s electrifying performance under the bar came to nought in the 116th minute of extra-time and the title clash slipped towards the tie-breaker.
Jahouh sent off
Goa, reeling from the blow of losing Ahmed Jahouh to a second yellow card offence after outstretching his feet following a tumble and striking Miku’s belly.
Bengaluru pressed for the match-winner but faced stiff resistance till the Goa defence took a breather as Dimas Delgado got ready for a corner kick.
With the Goa defenders focusing on the target men, Bheke, who had done his defensive work silently till then, scored off a set-piece. He stepped back before heading the ball into the left corner.
Though Naveen got his fingertips to the ball with a leap to his right, the ball lodged into the net and Bengaluru players jumped in celebration.
The first half of extra-time had ended with the finalists still locked 0-0.
At full throttle
Earlier, fans roared in appreciation the thrilling football on display even in the dying moments of the game. Bengaluru cleared long, Nishu Kumar lobbed into the path of Miku who controlled the ball but shot straight into the head of the onrushing Mourtada Fall.
In a few minutes, it was Goa in full throttle, but Juanan kept his nerve to head the ball over the bar for a corner.
BFC held the upperhand in the first half, mainly by denying the ball-players in the Goa midfield the time or freedom to switch on their passing bouts.
Long balls to Ferran Corominas were mopped up and the yellow cards earned by key players — central defender Mourtada Fall and playmaker Ahmed Jahouh — were the result of pressure exerted by the men in blue shirts. Mandar Dessai suffered a hamstring strain and went off.
Goa recovered poise after the break, regaining confidence in holding and spraying the ball around. Ahmed Jahouh squeezed a shot on target but Gurpreet stood tall and collected overhead. The orange shirts opted for a high defensive line, camping in the Bengaluru half, though they were open to counter-attacks.
Xisco Hernandez slipped the ball into space for Miku to poke with his left foot, but the ball hit the post and back into play. It looked as if the final was destined to stretch the players’ limits.
Alejandro Barrera, playing his first ISL final and only the third game of the competition, added teeth to a four-man Bengaluru midfield. The Spaniard had not faced the heartburn in last season’s loss in the final against Chennaiyin FC, something most of his foreign and Indian teammates were familiar with. Goa skipper Mandar was the only notable player in the rival camp to have lost a final.
Miku got his first close look at goal after a tricky run, but was denied by a bold Naveen who closed him down in style. Gurpreet, at the other end, faced an anxious moment when Jackichand linked with Corominas across the goalmouth. The latter, however, mistimed his shot.
Goa repelled a threat through collective work as central defender Mourtada, covering the angle after seeing his custodian off his charge, thwarted the BFC striker.
The result: Bengaluru FC 1 (Rahul Bheke 116) bt FC Goa 0; Full-time: 0-0.