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Posted on : Sunday January 11, 2015

By Debayan Mukherjee,
AIFF Media Team


Bengaluru FC 2 (Sunil Chhetri – 10th, Robin Singh – 65th)




Dempo SC 1 (Tolgay Ozbey – 45+3)



MARGAO: A rock-solid defence coupled with Sunil Chhetri’s brilliance up front propelled Bengaluru FC to taste their maiden Hero Federation Cup success edging 10-man Dempo SC 2-1 here at Fatorda’s Nehru Stadium on Sunday (January 11, 2015).


Chhetri and super-sub Robin Singh scored either side of Tolgay Ozbey’s first-half injury time equaliser to hand the Blues of India their second title in the space of eight months.


Rowilson Rodrigues was sent off in the second half for a studs-up lunge on Thoi Singh.


English centre-back Curtis Osano was adjudged the Hero of the Final while Dempo’s Romeo Fernandes bagged the Hero of the Tournament Award for his stellar performances throughout the Cup competition.


“We are delighted at this win, and this shows what good team work can do,” Coach Ashley Westwood told reporters at the post match Media Interaction.


“This sets us up perfectly for the Hero I-League and I am really happy with the way the boys responded to the challenge.


“Having said that I maintain that we cannot stretch our legs thinking we are the best in India. We have a lot of areas to work on and the I-League will be competitive to say the least,” the gaffer added.


“I congratulate Bengaluru FC to the win,” his counterpart Arthur Papas added.


“But I am proud of the way my boys played till the end with one man down. They have been excellent throughout the competition and this is the first time we have been down.”


On Romeo, the Australian tactician added: “It’s great to see Romeo improving so rapidly and that only augurs well for Indian Football.  I hope he continues this in the I-League.”


Joint top-scorer of the tournament along with Tolgay, Chhetri further added that “this triumph is very special.”


“We have worked as a unit and individual glory means little to this club. Even if I would not have been the top scorer and we won the Cup, I would be over the moon.”


Coming to the match which according to Papas was how ‘a Cup Final should be’, Chhetri opened the scoring converting easily from the spot after Eugeneson Lyngdoh was hacked down inside the box by Haroon Amiri.


Dempo drew level deep into stoppage time, this time Amiri tugged down by John Johnson inside the area. Tolgay netted from 12 yards. But in the second half Robin scored the winner turning in a cross by Beikhokhei Beingaichho from the right at the far post. Holicharan Narzary missed a few good chances at the end of the match as Dempo looked to stretch the tie to extra time despite being a man down.


The result means that Dempo’s wait for a Cup triumph continues. Their last and only hurrah came way back in 2004.


Both sides made one change each. While Thoi Singh replaced Siam Hanghal for BFC, Peter Carvalho took the place of suspended Lenny Rodrigues.


After a cagey few opening minutes where both sides took a measure of each other, Sean Rooney failed to meet a Sunil floater and the ball was cleared for a corner. From the Joshua Walker flag kick, Eugeneson was pulled down by Amiri inside the area and the referee had no choice but to point towards the dreaded spot.


Sunil stepped up, paused in his run up and sent goalkeeper Laxmikant Kattimani the wrong way burying the ball low to the keeper’s right.


Stung by the early setback, the local outfit pushed for the equaliser. But the famed BFC centre backs were more than up to the task every time Tolgay, Romeo and Mandar combined in the final third.


Johnson marked Tolgay all the way not allowing the in-form Aussie any space to manoeuvre. One long punt from Amiri on top of the box found Tolgay in a good spot but in the blink of an eye the former Middleborough man was there to avert the danger.


BFC were dealt a blow when Walker limped off in the 24th minute forcing Ashley Westwood to pull Rooney back into the midfield with Robin Singh replacing Walker to go up front.


Perhaps exploiting Walker’s hold-up play which went missing after his early departure, Tolgay made a buccaneering  run down the BFC middle dancing past defenders to get into the box but to the local supporters’ dismay pulled disappointingly wide of target.


Soon after, Romeo strayed inches wide from close. Dempo’s relentless efforts bore fruit courtesy BFC foul play deep into first half stoppage time. Johnson hauled back Amiri inside the box while Lalthuammawia Ralte collected the corner with ease.


Tolgay smashed the penalty kick with aplomb sending the keeper the wrong way.


Dempo showed more enterprise after the break with all to play for, until Rowilson was given marching orders for a rash challenge on Thoi compounding to their problems after Tolgay had to be substituted four minutes into the half for a hamstring strain.


Robin gave Bengaluru FC the lead which turned out to be the winner. Glancing Beikhokhei's right-wing cross into the back post, the India striker made it two out of two in championship winning matches. Robin scored the second goal against Dempo in his side's 4-2 win to clinch the I-League last season.


A goal and a man down, it was an uphill task for the five-time I-League winners. But had Holicharan Narzary not been so profligate up front in the dying minutes, they could have staged an inspiring fightback.