Bengaluru: On a night where tensions were at a crescendo, Chennaiyin FC put one over their rivals Bengaluru FC, carving out a 2-1 home defeat to the hosts courtesy a late Dhanapal Ganesh-winner at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium here on Sunday. The atmosphere couldn’t have been more fervent as Bengaluru welcomed the visitors to a fixture that was deemed a derby — despite these teams having never met before. Blues’ coach Albert Roca made six changes to the side that won in Pune on Thursday, bringing back Gurpreet Singh Sandhu in the goal following a two-match ban. The goalkeeper found himself picking the ball out of the net as early as the 5th minute, albeit in an unfortunate manner.
Jeje Lalpekhlua belted home after Lenny Rodrigues’ botched clearance ricocheted off Sunil Chhetri. Jeje was in the right space to poach a goal and the early lead. From there on, Chennaiyin boss John Gregory set his team to play on the counter. BFC were allowed possession but couldn’t find their way past a measly defence that had conceded only three goals in the previous four games. Chennaiyin defenders Mailson Alves and Inigo Calderon played well in tandem with midfielder Dhanapal Ganesh. BFC’s corner and free-kick count rose but they couldn’t find a way until the 85th minute.
Chhetri brought down Antonio Dovale’s flighted ball with a touch and unleashed a half volley into the far corner to bring BFC level. However, the home crowd were stunned when Ganesh towered over his markers to head home an 88th-minute winner off a Rene Mihelic free-kick, bringing an end to an ill-tempered game. Chennaiyin are now placed third on the table, level on 12 points with Bengaluru, but behind them on goal difference.
In Mumbai, defending champions ATK edged Mumbai 1-0 for their first win in five matches. Robin Singh scored off a neat pass from Zequinha in the 54th minute to guide the Kolkata team to victory. ATK were sharp in the attack and also defended stoutly. The visitors enjoyed a good share of possession in the opening half and came close to scoring on a couple of occasions but Mumbai goalkeeper Amrinder Singh denied them till Robin scored.