Bengaluru, 6th March: FC Bengaluru United put in a stellar performance to keep a resurgent Chennaiyin FC down and emerge worthy Stafford Challenge Cup 2023 champions with a hard-fought 2-1 victory. Vinil Poojary (31′) scored through a spectacular free kick to help FC Bengaluru United get on the scoreboard early, but Chennaiyin FC fought back with a goal in the 70th minute. But once again, it was Irfan Yadwad, who has been in sharp form for his team right through the tournament, who scored in the dying minutes of the game (90’+3) to seal a much-deserved win for FC Bengaluru United.
Under bright sunny skies, it was Chennaiyin FC who looked to get into the groove early, controlling possession. FCBU goalkeeper Kabir Toufiq was pressed into action early on, smartly tipping a long-range shot over the bar. However, it wasn’t long before FCBU hit their stride, creating half-chances through freekicks and controlled possession. Nikhil Mali and Vinil Poojari were in the thick of things for FCBU, giving the Chennaiyin FC defence quite a bit of work. It was Poojary, with a free kick, who finally broke the shackles in the 31st minute. A beautiful freekick from the right side of the ground off his left foot beat the Chennaiyin FC goalkeeper and got FCBU up and running on the scoreboard. That goal seemed to galvanise FCBU; Mali, Poojari, Sudhir Pottikela and Yadwad were at the centre of the action, crafting attacking moves as they looked to try and further the lead.
FCBU very nearly had their second goal early in the second half, but Mali failed to convert the penalty. They kept taking the attack to Chennaiyin FC, but against the run of play it was Chennaiyin FC who equalized in the 70th minute via Senthamil, who evaded the FCBU defence and got a clean strike in, perhaps the first error made by the FCBU defence. Chennaiyin FC upped the ante after their goal, but the FCBU defence held strong. In the 85th minute, Aenam K Jyrwa dribbled into the box, only to have the Chennaiyin defence FC block his efforts. Minutes later, once again it was Aenam who tried to get the ball at the back of the net after Yadwad missed a bicycle kick – his shot just sailing over the goal.
Five minutes of extra time and both teams looked to press on but it was FCBU who held their composure. A corner taken by Selwyn Miranda was cleared out by Bedashwor Singh, which made its way back to Selwyn. The ball reached Irfan, who had been looking to get his first strike of the game – a well-controlled header sealing a spectacular win for FCBU with a deft header in the 94th minute.
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