Bengaluru FC (BFC) rode on a late Rahul Bheke goal to win their maiden Indian Super League (ISL) title against 10-man FC Goa in Mumbai on Sunday. As a corner was played in deep by Dimas Delgado in the 117th minute, Bheke positioned himself perfectly to turn the ball into the top left corner beyond the Goa goalkeeper's reach. It kissed the edge of the post and crept in.
Bengaluru, who were runners-up in their maiden ISL season last year, have thus become the first team to have won the ISL after having topped the regular season. This was Goa's second loss in an ISL final as well -- they lost to Chennaiyin in 2015. As ISL winners, BFC will now go on to play the AFC Cup playoffs in 2020.
Both teams began cautiously, with Goa looking to exploit their right flank, sending long balls over to Jackichand Singh to get in behind Nishu Kumar. Though Jackichand was able to shrug off Nishu on a couple of occasions inside the first 15 minutes, Goa were unable to get enough support inside the BFC box to convert his crosses into scoring chances.
EXQUISITE FROM @RahulBheke ��
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BFC had the first meaningful chance on 22 minutes, when Sunil Chhetri, fed in by Dimas Delgado, whipped a low cross in from the left, but Miku failed to keep his header on target. Five minutes on, Jackichand moved beyond the reach of Nishu on BFC's left, meeting an Edu Bedia through ball with a first-time cross that BFC initially blocked. The rebound eventually fell to Brandon Fernandes, who shot it wide.
Goa were dealt a blow close to half time, when left-back Mandar Rao Desai pulled a hamstring, and had to be replaced by Saviour Gama. Despite that enforced change, they began the second half with greater purpose -- Jackichand testing Gurpreet Singh Sandhu with a shot after a quick one-two with Coro. Seconds later, Bedia's flicked header from Brandon's floating cross went straight to Sandhu.
BFC introduced Luisma in place of Alex Barrera, and the change almost paid in the 81st minute, with Udanta Singh whipping a cross in from the right that Chhetri chested down, and Xisco found enough space to squeeze a touch in. Miku picked the ball up, but in trying a delicate touch with the outside of his left boot, only made contact with the far post.
Miku could have scored a dramatic winner in the last minute of stoppage time. Fed in from the right by Udanta, his attempt at a trap and shoot was blocked by Mourtada Fall, running across him as he closed the angle down. Off the corner, Goa looked to break through Seriton Fernandes, and his cross was cleared inside the box by Dimas as the referee sent the match into extra time.
BFC got their first shot on target in the last minute of the first half of extra time, but Xisco's stinging left-footer from well outside the Goa box was palmed away by Naveen. Minutes later, Goa were reduced to 10 men when Jahouh was booked for a second time in the game, following through on Miku with his studs showing as he was fouled by the latter.
With Goa intent on defending, BFC coach Carles Cuadrat went for the kill in the second half of extra time, putting Kean Lewis and Boithang Haokip on, and Miku found a shot in the 114th minute saved by Naveen.
Bheke's goal came soon after that -- his third of the season - and with only a couple of minutes of added time, it was too late for Goa to produce an equaliser.