Bengaluru FC struck a massive blow to fellow playoff aspirants Chennaiyin FC, sealing three points with a 3-1 win in an Indian Super League (ISL) 2022-23 match at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium, here on Saturday.
The win, the fourth in a row for the Blues, put them into the top six for the first time since Matchweek 2 of the season and created a five-point cushion between them and Chennaiyin FC.
A first half full of errors allowed the home team to stamp their authority on the game. Sivasakthi Narayanan led the charge for Bengaluru FC, pouncing on a well-weighted chip from Roy Krishna who was back defending a corner in the 15th minute.
Sivasakthi began his run from his own half but used his pace and touch to set up a one-on-one with goalkeeper Samik Mitra, before slotting it into his near post.
Seven minutes later, Sivasakthi was lurking as Jiteshwor Singh fumbled a sideways pass in the centre of Chennaiyin FC's defense. The forward was on hand to steal the ball, keep his composure, and chip it over the on-rushing keeper.
Just past the half-hour mark, it was Rohit Kumar's turn to do the same, as he intercepted Mitra's feeble pass towards Julius Duker who was facing his own goal. After a brief tussle, Rohit emerged with the ball and passed it into the net from between Mitra's legs as he rushed out. Not long after, Mitra's fluffed clearance straight into Sivasakthi allowed him to complete a hat-trick, but the central defenders had tracked back to block him.
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Chennaiyin FC came out for the second half with three personnel changes, a change in formation, and a lot more intent. One of the substitutes, Edwin Vanspaul, found himself free on the right side of the box after Jiteshwor won a midfield duel and played him in - he wrapped his left foot around the ball to curl it past Gurpreet Singh Sandhu to make it 3-1 in the 59th minute.
From there, the visitors applied plenty of pressure with two strikers up front, and Peter Sliskovic was on the end of one of the best chances created during that period but kicked wide on the turn. A minute later, another loose ball fell for Vanspaul but his left-footed curler narrowly missed the post.
Entering the final 15 minutes of the game, it was still Chennaiyin FC on top and a quick move down the left allowed Ninthoi a free shot at the goal inside the box, but Sandhu's reflex save kept Bengaluru FC's lead intact
Bengaluru FC's only big chance of the half came in the 84th minute when substitute Bruno Ramires' first touch was a thundering volley that Mitra pushed away. A few more nervy moments came in stoppage time, but the Blues managed to hold on for a crucial result.
They moved into sixth place with 22 points, with a trip to ATK Mohun Bagan next on February 5. For Chennaiyin FC, it was the sixth consecutive game without a win after their 7-3 result against NorthEast United FC in December. They host Odisha FC on February 2 in what could become a must-win game.
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