Chennai win 2nd ISL title

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BANGALORE, India, March 17, (AFP): Chennaiyin FC clinched their second Indian Super League title on Saturday after beating debutants Bengaluru FC 3-2 in a mouthwatering final clash.

Goals from Brazilians Mailson Alves and Raphael Augusto gave Chennaiyin FC their second ISL trophy after winning in 2015.

Bengaluru FC started in spectacular fashion when skipper Sunil Chhetri led with 1-0 in the eighth minute, creating a new record by scoring the fastest goal in an ISL final.

Chhetri nodded in a cross from Udanta Singh past Chennaiyin FC goalkeeper Karanjit Singh in front of home fans at the packed Sree Kanteerava Stadium in southern Bangalore city. But minutes later Chennaiyin FC defender Alves pulled one back as he nodded in a corner.

A hush fell on the home crowd in blue when Alves delivered another deft header from a corner kick before the half-time break.

Midfielder Augusto scored in the 67th minute to cap off the game.

“Yes, I got lucky two times in a row. It’s difficult but fortunately, with my teammates everything is possible and this year, we were amazing all this season and I think we deserve that. All the guys they are amazing and we’re very happy,” said Chennai skipper Henrique Sereno.

“This year we knew that our strength is from the defence and we showed (that) in the games and in the final too.”

Chennaiyin FC is now on par with Atletico de Kolkata as the most successful with two wins each in the tournament. Bengaluru FC have enjoyed a dream run since switching from the rival I-League, winning 13 of their 18 matches under the stewardship of former Barcelona defender Albert Roca.

The Spaniard, who joined the south Indian club as coach in 2016, was disappointed with Saturday’s outcome but hopeful for a quick revival.

“I am for sure really sad because we would have liked to give that trophy, that win to our fans that they deserve,” Roca said.

“It’s a shame because the way that we have played, this season was, I think, really good. But in the last moment these kind of things can happen.”

“It was not our day … everything was against us. But that’s football and we will recover.”

Bengaluru FC, formed in 2013, entered the ISL in 2017.

Bengaluru switched to the ISL, which is backed by one of Asia’s richest men, Mukesh Ambani, after Asia’s football governing body ruled that the title winners will contest the AFC Cup from 2018.

With a city-based franchise format which mirrors cricket’s lucrative Indian Premier League, the ISL has surpassed the decade-old I-League in broadcast ratings since making its debut in 2014.

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