Bengaluru FC cruised to a narrow 1-0 victory and secured a crucial lead in the first leg of the Indian Super League (ISL) semi-final against Mumbai City FC at the Mumbai Football Arena on Tuesday. Sunil Chhetri came on as a substitute and found the back of the net in the 78th minute to give the Blues a vital lead ahead of the second leg in Bengaluru on Sunday.
As they have done all season, Mumbai City was once again the team that dominated possession and created more scoring chances than their opponents. In the second minute, Greg Stewart set the pace down the right with a low cross into the box for Bipin Singh, whose shot was blocked by Prabir Das. The defender returned to action just ten minutes later to deny Apuia and Jorge Pereyra Díaz after a brace.
At the other end of the pitch, Naorem Roshan’s through ball went past Mourtada Fall, but Phurba Lachenpa fell and reached for the ball before Roy Krishna could do any damage, and this was very much the Blues’ penetration in The first half.
With just over five minutes remaining, Stewart sent Díaz on target with a pass that broke through the defense from the edge of the box. Gurpreet Singh Sandhu scrambled out of the line to upset the Argentinian striker as the equalizer remained intact at half-time.
Before the hour clock, Simon Grayson brought in Chhetri to replace Sivasakthi Narayanan, and the veteran made the difference for his team for the second game in a row. In the final quarter of the game, moments after Das’s long-range effort was deflected over the crossbar for a corner, the deadlock was broken. Chhetri escaped his marker and headed for the near post, where he headed in Roshan’s corner from close range to net a crucial goal for his side.
Bengaluru was the team that created the most potent chances after that, as the hosts tried to push the men forward. Chhetri was back in front, forcing two saves from Lachenpa.
One of them came in the last minute of stoppage time, when Bengaluru FC broke through to create a 3-v-2 situation in the final third when the ball reached an unmarked Chhetri. He went for goal at the near post, but Lachenpa was alert to keep Bengaluru’s lead to just one ahead of the second leg. The Blues eventually held on, extending their winning streak to ten games in the ISL. They will return to the Sree Kanteerava Stadium on Sunday for the second leg with a vital lead.