Bengaluru, Feb 23 (IANS) Bengaluru FC added an eighth consecutive win to set themselves up for a top-four finish after a 3-1 win over FC Goa in the Indian Super League (ISL) at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium on Thursday.
Sivasakthi Narayanan added two more goals to his season’s tally and Pablo Perez came on to score the third for the Blues as they ended the Gaurs’ playoff race and confirmed Odisha FC’s entry as the sixth and final team in the playoffs.
In the opening five minutes of the game, the hosts won three consecutive corners and broke the deadlock with the third one. The ball was curled into the box for the third time by Roshan Naorem and an unmarked Narayanan headed it in from close range to give the hosts an early lead.
FC Goa were in a must-win situation but their hopes were dashed on Thursday,
Less than five minutes after the opener, Noah Sadaoui’s cross from the left flank picked up a couple of deflections before finding its way through to Redeem Tlang.
The winger got his shot away from a tight angle but Gurpreet Singh Sandhu had his near post covered. Tlang was denied by Gurpreet again minutes later, this time from 25 yards out. At the other end of the pitch, a free kick from Naorem found Sunil Chhetri, who was denied by Dheeraj Moirangthem.
Parity was restored three minutes after the half-hour mark when Sadaoui was allowed time on the left flank to whip in an inch-perfect cross that was nestled into the bottom right corner by Iker Guarrotxena. Minutes later, under the Spaniard’s pressure, Rohit Kumar failed to keep his header on target as the Blues failed to retake the lead almost instantly.
Six minutes into the second half, Guarrotxena picked out Tlang near the edge of the Bengaluru FC box. The winger took a touch and tried to power it past Gurpreet at the near post but ended up flashing it just over the bar. The Bengaluru FC shot-stopper then almost got himself an assist when his long ball was sliced wide by Roy Krishna minutes later.
But as FC Goa pushed hard to get ahead, Bengaluru FC were presented with a chance to counter in the 78th minute. Suresh Wangjam’s initial effort from that move was parried straight into the path of Narayanan who made no mistake in slotting the ball into an empty net. During FC Goa’s protests for an offside, a member of their coaching staff was sent off.
Nine minutes from time, Perez put the game beyond all doubt. After a midfield duel, the ball fell to Krishna, who slid it through to the Spaniard on the left side of the box. The substitute opened himself up and curled his shot into the top corner to end FC Goa’s playoff race and complete a league-stage turnaround for Bengaluru FC, who began the year well outside the playoff spots. The win sealed a top-four spot for them, which means they will begin the playoffs at home.