As the final whistle blew at the Sree Kanteerava stadium on Saturday, Sunil Chhetri, who was running with the ball, collapsed on the ground. The crowd looked on in confused silence even as a section of fans erupted in joy in a corner of the stadium.
Chennaiyin FC had edged out Bengaluru FC 3-2 to win its second Indian Super League (title) in a thrilling final.
After storming through the league stage of the tournament, Bengaluru FC started the final as firm favourites in front of its vociferous home support. The team made a perfect start to the game as its captain and star striker Sunil Chhetri scored with a diving header in the 7th minute after Udanta Singh had broken through on the right.
But Chennaiyin FC composed itself and equalized ten minutes later when Mailson Alves rose highest to head home from a corner. Mailson repeated the trick in the 45th minute to give them a 2-1 lead at the half-way point of the game.
Bengaluru FC also lost midfielder Dimas Delgado to injury as the final appeared to unravel in front of its home fans. Delgado, along with Erik Paartalu had been the bedrock of Bengaluru FC’s midfield throughout the season but with Delgado hobbling out due to injury and manager Albert Roca starting Paartalu in defense, it left a void in the Bengaluru team’s midfield.
Roca removed Paartalu and Boithang Haokip to bring in striker Daniel Segovia and defender Nishu Kumar but the changes had little effect as Chennaiyin FC took control of the final with a counter-attacking goal in the 67th minute by Augusto.
Bengaluru FC uncharacteristically struggled to find their rhythm and when Chhetri skied a glorious chance in the 86th minute, they knew it just wasn’t to be their night. Striker Miku headed in a consolation goal in stoppage time but it proved to be too little too late for the Bengaluru side as Chennaiyin FC held on for a famous win and a second ISL title, after having won the tournament in 2015 under Marco Materazzi.
In spite of an 8-point gap between the two sides in the league stage, Chennaiyin FC had proved to be superior when it mattered in the final. By virtue of the win it qualifies for the AFC Cup on the basis of this win while Bengaluru FC will look to get over the disappointment by continuing its current AFC Cup campaign.