Sunil Chhetri marked his 200th appearance for Bengaluru FC with two goals against Mumbai City.
For Bengaluru FC, who had picked up just seven points in their last 11 outings heading into the match, it was a welcome result. The win keeps them in the hunt for an ISL playoffs spot with just two matches remaining in the league phase.
It was also their first win against Mumbai City since January 18, 2018. Bengaluru FC had just drawn once and lost four times in their last five ISL fixtures against the Islanders.
Bengaluru FC striker Cleiton Silva got the ball rolling as early as in the 25th second - the second-fastest goal in ISL history. The Brazilian struck again in the 22nd minute to extend the Blues’ lead.
Mumbai fought back with two goals from Adam Le Fondre in the second-half but Sunil Chhetri bagged a well-timed brace to keep Sergio Lobera's men at bay.
“Chhetri is the captain and a leader. He motivates the players. And you can see his frustration also when the team is not playing well. It was very important for him to stay calm today and keep motivating the players and it worked,” Bengaluru FC's interim head coach Naushad Moosa said.
The win lifted Bengaluru up to the sixth spot in the ISL table. Just two points off fourth-placed FC Goa, Moosa is backing his team to make the playoff cut.
“The win was very important. The only way to win the remaining games and to do that, we have to play like a team. Today we showed how,” Moosa noted.
“The way the other teams are getting draws so there are possibilities (of making the top four) and we have to just keep playing the way we did today,” he added.
For Mumbai City FC, on the other hand, the loss was a big blow to their Asian ambitions.
Though Sergio Lobera's Mumbai have already sealed a playoff spot courtesy their incredible 12-match unbeaten streak earlier in the season, they have been struggling a little heading into the business end of ISL 2020-21.
At one point, the Islanders seemed favourites to finish the league phase at the top of the table and clinch the coveted AFC Champions League spot.
However, just four points from their last four matches has seen them concede the top spot to ATK Mohun Bagan.
Two points behind the Kolkata side now, Sergio Lobera needs to lift his team's performances in the remaining three matches.
The Spaniard, though, still remains hopeful that the top spot is achievable.
“There is still a long time before the season finishes which is helpful for us. But I think the first spot for the playoffs will be amazing,” Lobera said at his press meet.
With just three matches remaining in Mumbai City FC's league phase campaign, the Islanders play ATK Mohun Bagan in the final one - a match which may just turn out to be a shootout for the top spot.
_Lead photo: ISL Media