A late header from defender Alan Costa ensured a triumphant return for Bengaluru FC to the Sree Kanteerava Stadium as the side edged NorthEast United FC 1-0 on Saturday.
The 87th minute goal came from a corner as the 6’3” Brazilian towered above the defence to meet fine ball from Javi Hernandez. But the match ended in acrimony when an injury-time equaliser from Ion Gaztanaga was ruled out for offside, much to the chagrin of the coach Mark Balbul, who was sent off for protesting.
It was a part-lively, part-tepid performance from BFC. From the outset the idea was to exploit the pace of N. Sivasakthi and Roy Krishna. Long-range passes from Suresh Wangjam and Prabir Das to the two forwards were a constant feature.
But the first opportunity arrived in the 14th minute following a mazy run on the left flank from Naorem Roshan, whose cut-back Sivasakthi sent inches wide. Minutes later, M.S. Jithin missed a one-on-one for the visitors.
The encounter, though, soon slipped into a contest of half-chances. Frenchman Romain Philippoteaux’s was a mesmerising presence in the No.10 role for NorthEast, but his teammates disappointed. BFC’s initial pop too fizzled out quickly.
The game sprang to life after the hour mark when BFC head coach Simon Grayson introduced creator Hernandez, and then the pacy winger Udanta Singh by withdrawing defender Aleksandar Jovanovic.
The pressure soon told, with Costa’s goal sending the nearly 20,000 fans into raptures. NorthEast’s Parthib Gogoi almost poured cold water on BFC’s celebrations but his stunning on-the-turn shot clattered off the cross bar. There was more drama in store, but BFC was not to be denied.