In a top of the table clash at the Arena, it was Mumbai City FC who edged out Bengaluru FC by a solitary goal courtesy of the captain on the night, Paulo Machado. The goal came in the 29th minute and it ensured an end to Bengaluru FC’s 11-match unbeaten run while the Islanders extended theirs to 9 matches and moved to the summit of the Hero ISL standings.
The game started on a very tight note with both sides not giving each other much room to create any chances. A couple of crosses from Arnold Issoko were the only opportunities where the Islanders looked to test Gurpreet Singh in goal in the early minutes. At the other end, Xisco Fernandez had the first real chance for Bengaluru FC. The Spaniard was left unmarked in the box as he tested Amrinder Singh but his effort was tipped over the bar.
Modou Sougou was a constant threat to the Bengaluru FC defence, as he was called offside on multiple occasions while looking beat the BFC offside trap. While the focus was on him after his heroic performance against Kerala Blasters FC last time we played at the Arena, the trio of Rafael Bastos, Paulo Machado and Arnold Issoko were not letting the visitors settle in.
On the stroke of the half an hour mark, a Bengaluru FC corner was cleared away by Arnold to Rafael Bastos. The Brazilian picked up the ball and charged ahead and set Machado free down the right side to put him through on goal. The Portuguese did not make any mistake as he slotted the ball past Gurpreet and finished off a breathtaking counter attacking goal. The Islanders were leading by a goal after doing all the hard work.
A couple of yellow cards were shown to the Islanders - first to Subhasish Bose for a late challenge on Dimas Delgado and Sougou for showing dissent. The game heated up with Bengaluru FC searching for the equaliser but the Islanders were firm in their defence to deny them any opportunity to get back on level terms. After an intense first half, the Islanders lead thanks to Machado’s second ISL goal.
Modou Sougou had the first big chance of the second half when he beat the offside trap but his effort inside the box was comfortably saved by the BFC 'keeper. Paulo Machado came close to adding a second goal in the match but his effort was deflected into the side netting in the 56th minute.
A few minutes later, Modou Sougou once again got behind the Bengaluru FC defence to go one-on-one with Gurpreet and test him but his effort was saved and the Islanders saw a glorious opportunity go begging. Both sides made two changes apiece to bring fresh legs and energy to the game. Modou Sougou and Raynier Fernandes were replaced by Matias Mirabaje and Mohammed Rafique for Mumbai City FC whereas Chencho Gyeltshen and former Islander Boithang Haokip came on for Xisco Fernandez and Udanta Singh respectively
While the visitors pushed hard for the crucial equaliser, the Islanders’ backline were resilient. Bengaluru FC pushed on as the game entered four minutes of stoppage time. The visitors had a flurry of attempts to get the ball in the Islanders’ penalty area. There was a late scare when a foul on Chhetri meant a Bengaluru FC freekick on the edge of the box but Dimas’ attempt was well off target.
A mighty defensive showing by the Islanders to hold on for an important win and a 7th clean sheet in this campaign. With this win, the Islanders climbed up the table and now have 27 points from 13 games, sitting on the top of the Hero ISL table by virtue of goals scored.
Up next, we return to the Arena on Friday, February 1 to face FC Goa in our penultimate home game of the season. Book your tickets here.