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Sporting Club Bengaluru emerge champions of I-League 2 with two rounds to spare

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New Delhi, April 15 (IANS) Sporting Club Bengaluru were crowned champions of the 2023-24 I-League 2 with two rounds to spare as they beat Sudeva Delhi FC 1-0 at the Ambedkar Stadium here on Monday. The Golden Tigers have been promoted to the I-League 2024-25 for the first time.

Formed as recently as 2022, SC Bengaluru's instant success story is one to take note of. It all started with their title-winning campaign in the 2022-23 Bangalore Super Division, their debut season in the league. As a result, they were eligible to participate in the 2023-24 I-League 3 and went on to top Group D only by a better goal difference over Diamond Harbour FC to qualify for the playoffs.

In the I-League 3 play-offs, SC Bengaluru finished in the top three alongside Dempo SC and Sporting Clube de Goa to book their spot in the I-League 2. Monday's win cemented their status as champions as they took their tally to 27 points from 12 matches.

Their sensational league triumph was mainly made possible by their impeccable home form. The Golden Tigers won all seven of their matches at the Bangalore Football Stadium. Their tally of 23 goals so far is the highest in the eight-team league, while they also boast of the joint-best defence, having conceded only 12 goals, same as Dempo -- a testimony to their dominant and unrivalled campaign.

All of this came after a rough start to the season, with a couple of losses away to United SC and Dempo in their first three games. Chandrashekar Rao Chinta's side then went on to win seven games in a row before a 3-4 loss to Sporting Clube de Goa last week halted that run. But the narrow win over Sudeva Delhi, thanks to Shaiborlang Kharpan's first-half strike, proved enough to seal the title in SC Bengaluru's favour, meaning they will become the first team to represent the city in the I-League since Bengaluru FC in 2016-17.

With the champions decided, the race for the runners-up and the second promotion spot remains wide open with as many as four teams still in the hunt ahead of the last two matchdays. Dempo SC are currently in second place with 21 points, followed by FC Bengaluru United and Sudeva Delhi FC on 20 points each and Sporting Clube de Goa on 19 points. Dempo or Sporting Goa making their much-awaited return to the I-League, or Sudeva Delhi bouncing back after their relegation last season, or maybe even Bengaluru United making it two in two for the city with a first-ever promotion. The next two weeks will provide all the answers.

--IANS

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