Sunil Chhetri scored late and scored his 50th Indian Super League goal, leveling Bartholomew Obgeche on the all-time scoring list. However, his strike was unable to prevent Bengaluru from losing to league leaders Hyderabad.
League leaders Hyderabad bounced back from a 2-1 defeat against ATK Mohun Bagan with a win over top-four contenders Bengaluru FC. The Nizams beat the Blues by the same margin on Friday night at the GMC Athletic Stadium with goals from Javier Siverio and Joao Victor. Sunil Chhetri pulled one back late on for Bengaluru, making Indian Super League history in the process, but his goal wasn’t enough to rescue his side from the clutches of defeat.
Chhetri’s counterpart, Bartholomew Ogbeche, was chasing the history of his own; the Hyderabad forward stood level on the all-time ISL top-scorers list with the Indian skipper (49 goals each).
Sixteen minutes in and Bengaluru’s failure to clear their lines properly presented a chance to Ogbeche, but the attacker wasn’t able to sort his feet out in time – and the ball bounced away from him. Luckily for the Nizams, it fell kindly inside the box for Siverio, and the youngster smashed it into the net from close range.
Hyderabad doubled their lead in the 30th minute through Victor. Souvik Chakrabarti played the ball short to Victor from a set-piece, and the midfielder, unchallenged, curled it around Gurpreet Singh Sandhu from outside the box.
Despite dominating their opponents in terms of territory, Bengaluru could only muster one shot on target, which came in the 87th minute. Udanta Singh, forced wide, managed to square the ball through bodies to a well-positioned Chhetri inside the opposition box, and the forward coolly directed the cross into the corner, away from goalkeeper Laxmikant Kattimani. This was Chhetri’s 50th goal in the competition, making him the outright top-scorer in its history.
The loss dented Bengaluru’s playoff hopes. Despite holding the third spot, they have played two games more than fifth-place Kerala Blasters and sixth-place Mumbai City, both of which are within a point of the Blues. Chhetri and Co play NorthEast United (Feb 18), Odisha FC (Feb 21), ATK Mohun Bagan (Feb 27), and East Bengal (Mar 3) in their remaining games.
Hyderabad, meanwhile, are safe at the top but not yet secured of passage; the Nizams could lose one of the four finals spots if results don’t go their way from the remaining games, which are against FC Goa (Feb 19), KBFC (Feb 23), Jamshedpur FC (Mar 1), and MCFC (Mar 5).