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Champions on debut!

- Bengaluru FC beat Dempo 4-2 to dash EB hopes
Bengaluru FC’s Sunil Chetri in action against Dempo, in Margao, on Monday. Picture courtesy: BFC

Calcutta: Bengaluru FC (BFC) ensured they didn’t have to wait till next week.

Putting up a fine display, they outclassed Dempo SC 4-2 to emerge champions of this season’s I-League on Monday itself, at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, in Margao.

Sean Rooney, Robin Singh, John Menyongar and Sunil Chetri — all four of them who were pivotal to their team’s cause this season, found the target to make it a dream I-League debut for Bengaluru FC. Bengaluru FC’s triumph dashed the title hopes of East Bengal, who trailed the toppers by just one point till the start of this game.

East Bengal’s final I-League match against United SC on April 28 is now just a dead rubber. They were certainly praying for a Dempo win, but the Goans needed something more than the strikes from Beto (82 nd minute) and Romeo Fernandes (89 th minute), both of which were scored when Bengaluru FC already had a firm grip over the game.

It took Bengaluru FC just two minutes to go ahead. Robin’s mistimed shot fortunately found Sean, who slotted the ball home into an empty net with rival custodian Laxmikant Kattimani out of position.

Eleven minutes into the second half, Robin added his name on to the scoresheet to double the visitors’ lead. Receiving a long ball to perfection, he slammed it into the far post with the Dempo goalkeeper left stranded.

Bengaluru FC got their third, courtesy Menyongar’s clever work. With Dempo’s defenders caught napping, Menyongar latched on to a pass from Chetri and placed the ball in perfectly. Bengaluru FC just couldn’t look back after this goal.

But Beto finally rose to the occasion for his team, taking a gem of a free-kick to reduce the margin with eight minutes to go for regulation time. After a short while, Dempo did manage to give Bengaluru FC a scare when substitute Romeo found the target after being put through on the right.

Nonetheless, captain Chetri then made sure the deal was sealed when he evaded Debabrata Ray and did the needful, off a Beikhokhei set-up, seconds before the final whistle. Besides the Chetris and Seans, Thoi Singh, too, was pretty instrumental in helping Bengaluru FC triumph in their very first season. “Ever since joining the club, I can feel the improvement after every training session. Everything that I need is at this club,” Thoi was quoted saying on Bengaluru FC’s official website.

“Most importantly, I have regained my lost confidence. My teammates have been fantastic and the seniors have always been by my side, giving me handy tips,” he maintained.

“I have always played on the right-wing and never ever thought that the middle was for me. But thanks to the coach, all of that has changed now. I love my new position so much that I have almost forgotten how to play down the right,” he added.

Rangdajied United FC (RUFC), on the other hand, just could not afford to lose against Lajong FC, at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, on Monday, as it would have meant that they would still remain in the relegation zone.

As simple as it may sound, the task was not easy at all for RUFC players. But they put up a dogged fight and held Lajong FC to a goalless draw. The one point ensured that RUFC avoided relegation in their maiden season in the I-League as they completed their campaign with 25 points from 24 matches.

Lajong, on the other hand, remained in the fifth position with 33 points from 23 games and will play their last game of the season against Mohun Bagan on April 27 in Calcutta.