On Monday, Bangaluru FC repaid their bourgeoning fan base by lifting their very first I-League title at the very first time of asking. Despite a sparsely-attended I-League clash at the Nehru Stadium in Fatorda,lucky Indian fans still witnessed history as the Steelmen created history by beating Dempo 4-2 and in the process relinquishing the vice-like grip the Goan clubs have had on India’s Premier Club Football league.
East Bengal haven’t managed it, Mohan bagan haven’t managed it but where the traditional powerhouses failed, a young upstart came, saw and conquered. Bangalore’s Premier Football club – founded only a year ago – waltzed to their first major domestic honour at the very first time of asking. The JSW owned club built on the acquisitions of Sunil Chettri and Robin Singh – seasoned International players – and relied on the coaching nous of Englishman Ashley Westwood to set the league alight in the early stages and maintained their advantage to become the 4
th different club – the others are all based in Goa – to lift the prestigious trophy.
The Bangalore side took only two minutes to show that they meant business as Sean Rooney fired into an empty net, the Australian profiting from a Singh mishit. The Steelmen should’ve doubled their lead in the 35
th minute as Sunil Chettri nodded expertly off a Rooney cross but the referee deemed that the 29-year-old had committed a foul. The away side were comfortable for most of the 1 st half and barring a few runs on the right from HolicharanNarzary, they were able to repel most of what the home side threw. Even wily old customers like Beto and Clifford Miranda were unable to provide the sort of inspiration they’ve become symbolic of.
Eleven minutes into the second half, Bangaluru finally doubled their lead. Singh controlled a long ball to perfection and smashed his shot off the near post, the effort too hot for LaxmikantKattimani. With Dempo heads dropping, Westwood’s men added more salt to the wound as John Menyongor made it three. The home side’s midfield had looked sloppy for most of the match but Beto managed to shake off the rust by rising to the occasion for his team as the Brazilian’s gem of a free-kick reduced the arrears. The goal seemed to spur the slumbering Goan outfit into life as 7 minutes later, Romeo Fernandes added another strike to the highlight reel and left nerves jangling.
Would the league leaders stumble on the brink of triumph?
On a landmark occasion such as this, it would’ve been an anti-climax if the Steelmen’s lead sniper failed to score but Chettriduly obliged to seal the title. The 29-year-old embellished the occasion with a neatly taken in goal in added time and set the tone for the ensuing celebrations.
The win means East Bengal’s final I-League match against United SC on April 28 is now just a formality as the I-League title has once again passed the Kolkata giants by. But this night was all about the Blues who showed that along with the funding they have a foundation and if you’re good enough then you certainly are old enough.