Before the match between Bengaluru FC and Hyderabad FC, Bartholomew Ogbeche and Sunil Chhetri – two strikers who have dominated the Hero Indian Super League, were vying to become the first individual to bag 50 goals in the competition. For those wondering, both had 49 goals in their kitty heading into the contest.
Prior to the 2021-22 season, it seemed that Chhetri would, rather convincingly, outlast Ogbeche in that particular race. However, with the Indian not hitting his straps and Ogbeche scoring for fun, things became interesting.
So much so that this game, which pitted two teams in the top four, morphed into a battle between these two strikers. Not just because both epitomize everything their respective clubs do, but also because both boast an unparalleled ability to make the difference.
For a major chunk of the first half, it seemed that Ogbeche would nudge ahead of Chhetri. Hyderabad FC were dominating proceedings, they were reacting quicker to loose balls and were imposing their identity a lot more. In contrast, the Blues were slightly lacklustre in possession, weren’t alert enough defensively and were allowing HFC’s wingers too much room.
Those notions, to an extent, came true as Manolo Marquez’s men surged into the lead. Ogbeche, though, wasn’t the one who made the net bulge. Instead, he teed up Javier Siverio inside the box, with the Spaniard then rifling the ball into the roof of the net.
A few minutes later, Hyderabad FC’s swift thinking led to another goal. Joao Victor, who has been in relatively good goal-scoring form, curled the ball into the bottom corner from outside the box. From a personal standpoint, however, Ogbeche’s duck was yet to be broken.
To the striker’s credit, he didn’t go looking for the record. For the first goal, he could have easily opted to shoot and the opportunity could have been squandered. Yet, he made the right decision and ultimately thought of the betterment of the team.
Chhetri, meanwhile, didn’t enjoy as much time and space in the opposition’s defensive third. There were a few moments where he linked up well with Roshan Singh Naorem but those were aberrations, as opposed to what has become the norm lately.
But when the chance presented itself in the dying embers of the game, Chhetri was on hand to turn in Udanta Singh’s cross. In the process, he became the first player to score 50 goals in the Hero ISL.
That, though, was quickly followed by a gesture to regain the ball and instigate as quick a kick-off as possible because, well, Bengaluru FC were still chasing a game at that point.
Both could have been a little greedy and could have looked to etch their name in Hero ISL folklore, gambling that their exploits would invariably lead to their team’s success. They didn’t. They, like they have always done for their respective clubs, prioritized the collective.
Chhetri reaped his rewards against Hyderabad FC, and while Ogbeche wasn’t as fortunate, you can probably guess his 50th Hero ISL goal isn’t too far away either.
The personal milestone of becoming the first footballer to make the net bulge 50 times in the Hero ISL might not matter much this season. It will have a special place in history, make no mistake about it. Yet, as far as this campaign’s fortunes are concerned, the victory HFC managed to put together might be a touch more significant.
If that particular storyline is married with the piece of history Chhetri and Ogbeche were vying for, you could probably say that Chhetri won the goal-scoring battle, but Ogbeche’s Hyderabad FC won the war.
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