Margao: First-timers Bengaluru FC today wrote a new chapter in Indian football by clinching the I-League title in their debut season courtesy a 4-2 away win over Dempo Sports Club here, with captain Sunil Chhetri fittingly netting the final goal. Needing a win to snatch the title ahead of other established teams, Bengaluru led from start to finish.
They scored through Sean Rooney (2nd), Robin Singh (56th), John Menyongar (79th) and captain Sunil Chhetri (90+7). Dempo reduced the margin through Roberto Silva (82nd) and substitute Romeo Fernandes (89th).
After Sean Rooney had given them a dream start in the second minute, there was no looking back. Dempo threatened a brief fightback but that was not enough to thwart Bengaluru. The win helped the Southern club accumulate 44 points and take an unassailable lead with one round still to be played.
The likes of East Bengal and Salgaocar Football Club will play for the second and third spot. Bengaluru needed a win from any of their last two matches to emerge triumphant but in the end it was clear that they would not leave anything to chance.
Robin Singh scored in the 56th minute to give his team a 2-0 lead. With ten minutes left to be played, Bengaluru put the issue beyond doubt when John Menyongar made it 3-0.
There was brief fightback from Dempo as Brazilian midfielder Roberto Mendes da Silva pulled a goal back in the 82nd minute and Romeo Fernandes then scrambled home to make it 2-3.
But India and Bengaluru captain Sunil Chhetri scored the winners' fourth goal of the evening. Coach Ashley Westwood was suspended for the game and assistant coach Pradyum Reddy took charge in the dugout. But Westwood had done enough in pre-match preparations to help his team sail through.
They started with a flourish when Rooney gave them a second-minute lead. Captain Chhetri took a quick throw in to Robin, whose shot across the goal was met with glee by Rooney past a bewildered Dempo defence.
Dempo did not have a single shot on goal for most part of the first half and goalkeeper Laxmikant Kattimani had to make a double-save to keep Robin quiet from a blistering quick counter-attack.
All India Football Federation secretary Kushal Das congratulated Bengaluru FC on winning the title. "Congratulations Bengaluru FC. You are the deserving Champions. Enjoy the moment," Das stated.
I-League CEO Sunando Dhar said: "They may have been the new entrants but have led the way and paved the path for all to tread in the future.
Congratulations." By far the most impressive debutants in the National Football League/I-League history, the Jindal Steel Works (JSW) owned outfit clinched its maiden title sans big names, a much sought-after success formula in Indian football. "We could have gone for the moon.
But that was never going to be the way we wanted to go about it. However, we are on the moon at the moment," club consultant Mandar Tamhane said. Of the goals scored by BFC, 20 have come from the boots of Chhetri and India International Robin Singh struck six times.
Thoi Singh (4) shares the second largest chunk in goals netted along with Australian striker Sean Rooney (9).
"Breaking the bank balance is not a success formula. We wanted to strike a balance between player's salary and spending wisely on the other important things which are as important as buying Players," he added.
"When we entered the fray there were not many marquee players we could choose from. The other clubs had already done their shopping and we were left with very few choices.
At the end of the day, I am happy that we did not go for the big names." What is also significant is that barring Chhetri most of the players who shone bright, were not in the wanted list of many clubs prior to the start of the season.