Bengaluru FC clinched back-to-back wins for the first time this season, beating Odisha FC 3-1 in the Indian Super League (ISL) at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium in Bengaluru on Saturday to signal their arrival into the playoffs race.
Rohit Kumar broke the deadlock before Roy Krishna ended his ten-game goalless streak to double the host's advantage. Diego Mauricio pulled one back from the spot in the opening stages of the second half, but the home side managed to stifle Odisha FC's pursuit for the major part of the game. Pablo Perez came on to score his first goal for Bengaluru FC in stoppage time to wrap up all three points. This was also the first time this season that Bengaluru FC scored more than two goals in a game.
Simon Grayson made just one change to his lineup as Sandesh Jhingan came into the Bengaluru FC defence, replacing Aleksander Jovanovic. For the first time in 13 Hero ISL games this season, Josep Gombau fielded an unchanged Odisha FC XI.
Despite dominating possession in the early stages, the visitors were at the receiving end of two quickfire goals. 25 minutes into the game, Javi Hernandez's cross from the right flank was cut back across the face of goal by Alan Costa, straight into the path of Rohit Kumar, who planted the ball into the back of the net, via a deflection.
Just three minutes later, Sivasakthi Narayanan galloped down the left flank and played a perfect through ball for Roy Krishna. The Fijian took a touch before calmly slotting the ball past Amrinder Singh to end his ten-game goal drought. Five minutes from the break, Hernandez pounced on a loose ball near the halfway line and sprinted towards the goal before seeing his close-range effort saved by Amrinder.
The second half got off to a bright start with end-to-end football on display. The hosts had a couple of chances that were dealt with by Amrinder before Mauricio was brought down at the other end by Gurpreet Singh Sandhu after skipping past Parag Shrivas. The striker stepped up to take the penalty and sent Sandhu the wrong way from the spot to pull one back for his team. It was the striker's fifth goal in three games for his club.
But problems piled up for Gombau as half-time substitute Victor Rodriguez picked up an injury and had to be taken off in the 70th minute with Pedro Martin coming on. In the 92nd minute, the game was put to bed after substitutes Udanta Singh and Pablo Perez combined to score on the counterattack as Odisha FC pushed hard in Bengaluru FC's third.
This result splits open the playoff race, with Odisha FC once again vulnerable to being overtaken by FC Goa to fifth place, while Bengaluru FC have cut the distance to the final playoff spot to three points, level with Chennaiyin FC who are in seventh place. Grayson's side will travel to Jamshedpur for their next game on January 18, Wednesday. Gombau's men do not feature in the next Matchweek and will next be in action on January 28, Saturday, against ATK Mohun Bagan.