XtraTime Web Desk: Sunil Chhetri kept intact his habit of scoring against FC Pune City, turning up with a brace (41’ 43’) while Miku fired home one (64’) as Bengaluru FC moved to the top of the Indian Super League table with a 3-0 win at the Balewadi Stadium, on Monday.
Chhetri’s brace also meant he is now the leading Indian scorer (24 goals) in the ISL having overtaken Chennaiyin FC’s Jeje Lalpekhlua (22) on a night where Carles Cuadrat’s men barely set a foot wrong.
The first half-chance of sorts fell to Bengaluru in the 15th minute when Miku raced to get to a loose ball in the box. Tight on space and being closed in upon by the Pune City defenders, the striker tried to curl one at the far post but was woefully wide in his attempt.
The hosts soon had a chance of their own when Marcelinho was brought down by Juanan Gonzalez a few yards outside the box. The Brazilian’s left-footed take was on its way in before Gurpreet Singh did well to push the ball out for a corner.
Closer to the end of the half, the Blues had a big chance when Delgado picked out Chhetri with his take from the corner. The skipper met the ball with his head but it was straight down Vishal Kaith’s throat. Chhetri would get an even better chance two minutes later when Udanta whipped in the perfect cross, but in his attempt to tap home gently, the striker inexplicably hit over after the ball bounced awkwardly on an uneven surface.
Visibly upset with himself, Chhetri wasn’t leaving the pitch without making amends. With Pune’s last line playing high up, Delgado chipped over to pick Chhetri’s run and the captain, after bringing the ball down, wasn’t going to mess his lines when he scored past Kaith to make it 1-0 in the 41st.
Chhetri scored his second in the 43rd minute when he finished off a move fantastically created by Miku, with a touch of class. The Venezuelan powered through Adil Khan and Martin Diaz before selflessly passing to Chhetri. The captain, allowed himself some space in the box, dropped a shoulder, a defender and Kaith before tapping home and running to celebrate with Miku in acknowledgement.
The Blues, who started off rather sluggishly, looked good for a third goal before the half-time whistle when Delgado’s delightful chip left Miku with only Kaith to beat. Seeing the ’keeper rush out, the striker lobbed the ball only for it to land on the roof of the net.
Bengaluru started the second half with their tails up and soon got a third when Miku picked up a clearance from the Bengaluru half, holding off Sahil Panwar before volleying home past a diving Kaith.
Earlier, Bengaluru FC brought Dimas Delgado back to the starting XI ahead of Xisco Hernandez in what was the only change that Carles Cuadrat dabbled with from the team he rolled out against Jamshedpur a fortnight ago at home.
Pune had a few half-chances of their own in the closing stages as substitute Diego Carlos found himself some space in the box but his shot was pushed onto the post by Gurpreet. Later, a Marcelinho effort from distance took a deflection off Juanan Gonzalez before heading goalward but the Blues’ number one was on his toes to collect without fuss.
Cuadrat’s backline stood stubborn, fending off any potential threat to their clean sheet to close the game and send the Blues to the top of the League, on goal difference against NorthEast United.
Bengaluru’s long string of away games continues as they travel to Kolkata next where a clash against ATK awaits them at the Yuva Bharati Krirangan Stadium on Oct 31st.