The debutant wards off Dempo’s challenge to win I-League

This win will resonate for many years to come. Never had a club this far south won the National football championship in its two avatars since 1996-97; not in the last eight years had a team from outside Goa claimed the title. But most importantly, not for a long time has there been such excitement around a club in the country’s football space.

Bengaluru FC became the I-League champion on Monday, defeating Dempo SC 4-2 at the Fatorda Stadium. For a team in the first season of its existence, it’s a remarkable achievement. As the final whistle blew, the head coach Ashley Westwood, away from the touchline having been suspended, ran onto the pitch to be lifted and tossed up by his players.

The game finished rather nervously for the away team, after having led 3-0 with a little over 10 minutes left with the contest seemingly won. Dempo’s Roberto Mendes Silva (Beto) reduced the margin with a fine curling free-kick from just outside the area before Romeo Fernandes struck a minute from time, his shot drilled high into the top corner.

Chhetri’s parting shot

The home side pressed for the equaliser but Bengaluru broke at speed and with what would be the last kick of the game, Sunil Chhetri scored his 14th goal of the season.

The Bengaluru captain was mobbed near the corner flag, while high up in the West Stand, a vocal contingent of travelling supporters erupted in joy.

Earlier, Bengaluru could not have wished for a better start to the game. A goal arrived in only the second minute, Sean Rooney presented with a simple finish at the far post. A throw-in from Chhetri found Robin Singh, who rushed into the area unopposed and fired a shot across goal: Dempo had been caught napping.

Few chances came at either end thereafter, until a disallowed goal from Chhetri in the 35th minute. Dempo grew into the game towards the close of the half, but any fears Westwood may have had were soon allayed.

Eleven minutes in, Robin, who had been receiving much flak from the stands for his perceived aggression, controlled Chhetri’s pass before finding the net untroubled from the edge of the area.

When Menyongar scored, curling home a neat finish from the left having exchanged passes with Chhetri, it looked all over. Dempo fought back with attacking substitutions, but it wasn’t to deny Bengaluru glory.

The result: Dempo SC 2 (Roberto Mendes Silva 82, Romeo Fernandes 89) lost to Bengaluru FC 4 (Sean Rooney 2, Robin Singh 56, John Menyongar 79, Sunil Chhetri 90+7).

More In: Football | Sport