THE BLOG BY CPD FOOTBALL | The World of Indian football and beyond by Chris Punnakkattu Daniel

Bengaluru FC beat the odds and Bagan in classic comeback

Bengaluru FC players celebrating a goal. (Photo courtesy: Bengaluru FC)

It was billed a classic and Bengaluru FC swivelled past the odds more than just once to make sure it stayed just that – a classic. Down a goal and then a man with an entire half left to play for in unforgiving weather conditions, Albert Roca’s boys decided to thrash the script and hurriedly pen a brand new one when they came back from the dead to beat old rivals Mohun Bagan 4-2 and book a place in the final of the Super Cup against East Bengal. The inspiring win was underlined by a Miku hat-trick (63’, 65’ and 89’) and a Sunil Chhetri finish (90+1’) that will keep delighting you every time you see it.

The Kalinga Stadium was touching 40 degrees on a Tuesday afternoon but Bengaluru’s woes soon doubled without the ball being kicked after Juanan Gonzalez opted out of the warm-ups complaining of uneasiness he had been carrying from a rib injury. Harmanjot Khabra replaced the Spaniard as Subhasish Bose moved from left-back to partner Johnson in the middle, with Nishu moving to the left.

The rejigged defence looked like seeing the half through without conceding when Bagan broke the deadlock in 42nd minute through Asier Dipanda. Khabra was bundled over in the build-up and Akram Moghrabi did well to slide the ball to the Cameroonian striker who tapped home with ease.

Roca switched to a three-man back line for the second half with the introduction of Toni Dovale in place of Khabra. Erik Paartalu moved back to join Subhasish and Johnson at the back.

However, five minutes after restart, the Blues’ quest for a fight back suffered a massive blow as Nishu was given his marching orders. Pushing up in search of a leveller, a clearance from a Bengaluru corner caught Nishu off-balance, allowing Nikhil to run away with possession. Nishu, in his attempt to recover, fouled the winger and was sent in for a shower he could have done without.

Bengaluru had a shout for a penalty denied by the referee at the hour mark when Miku was brought down inside the box by Kinshuk Debnath. The Venezuelan flicked it around marker down the line, before being felled to the turf but referee Tejas Nagvenkar waved play on.

However, Miku turned the tie in Bengaluru’s favour, almost singlehandedly as he picked up a cut back from Udanta Singh. Taking a touch past his marker, the Venezuelan hammered home a low grounder past two defenders and Shilton Paul in the Bagan goal to level things.

It wasn’t long before the Blues seized advantage, as the Bengaluru No.7 earned a freekick just outside the rival area. Catching the Bagan defenders off guard, Toni played Miku through with a quick restart, and the latter made no mistake to place it past Shilton.

Bengaluru then took control of proceedings, dictating play in midfield as Roca sent Lenny Rodrigues on in place of Boithang Haokip. Miku completed his hat-trick in the 88th minute from the spot after Udanta was brought down in the box by substitute Rana Gharami. The striker became only the third player to score a treble for the Blues this season after Toni and Chhetri (2).

As if that wasn’t enough, the Blues continued to push forward and Chhetri scored what was arguably the goal of the tournament so far. Latching on to a long diagonal from Gurpreet Singh Sandhu down on the left flank, the skipper took a touch past his marker and curled it in and beyond the reach of Shilton to make it 4-1. Dipanda would then catch the Bengaluru defence off guard as he reduced the deficit with his second goal on the day in injury time, but it would make little difference as the referee blew the whistle to bring an end to the game at 4-2.

Bengaluru will take on East Bengal FC in the final of the inaugural Super Cup, at the Kalinga Stadium, in Bhubaneshwar, on Friday, April 20th, at 4 pm.

(Bengaluru FC)