Bengaluru FC: 72′ Miku (Assist: Udanta Singh); 87′ Dimas Delgado; 92′ Sunil Chhetri (Assist: Miku).
Supported by a vociferous home crowd, Bengaluru FC prevailed over an injury-stricken Northeast United FC to book a place in the final of the Indian Super League 2018-19.
The home side looked to start the game with intent and handed Xisco Hernandez a start. Xisco had come on as a sub in the 1st leg of the semi-final and got the Blues the vital away goal. NEUFC on the other hand were without the league’s second highest goal scorer Bart Ogbeche who made the bench, but was unlikely to come on. The midfielder Rowllin Borges was ruled out for tonight’s game and the fullback Robert Lalthlamuana picked up an injury in training before the game.
The depleted NEUFC side took to the field and while Bengaluru looked to peg them back, Northeast United willingly started to defend deep in their own half.
As Bengaluru pushed forward in the first half, Miku had some gilt-edged chances to bag himself a brace at the very least, but he spurned them all away. The teams went into the half-time break with the scores tied at 0-0.
The second half saw the Blues come out with more desire and attacking intent and had a couple of shots away, but Pawan Kumar kept NEUFC in the game.
Around the 60th minute, Federico Gallego had to be stretchered off after picking up an injury – the prognosis later on indicated multiple fractures on his shin.
The injury to Gallego would prove to be a big blow for the Highlanders – Gallego was the only NEUFC player who looked like he could make a difference. The Uruguayan was involved in driving the Northeast attack the few times they ventured out and kept possession in tight areas.
Gallego’s fellow countryman Juan Cruz Mascia who was drafted into the starting XI in place of Bart Ogbeche flattered to deceive. Mascia had a couple of shots away, but apart from that he was easily dislodged while in possession and did not display the nous and desire required in a game of this magnitude.
The Blues would break the deadlock in the 72nd minute. Udanta Singh who didn’t get on the ball much in the first half delivered a low cross in to the box. Miku made a run in front of the NEUFC defender and finished in the far corner. A second goal followed late in the second half after Udanta Singh broke free and made a run up field from an NEUFC corner. Udanta Singh hit the post and the ball came back in to the path of an incoming Dimas Delgado who slid it into the goal.
Bengaluru would add a third in second half stoppage time after Miku’s through ball saw Sunil Chhetri go 1v1 with the keeper. The Indian and Bengaluru FC captain went around the keeper Pawan Kumar and passed the ball into the net to ensure his team safe passage into the final.
Northeast United who were setup to defend tonight never looked comfortable doing so. Their running sum graph was essentially a flat line and their collective xG of 0.55 is three times lesser than that of Bengaluru. They barely feature among the top shooters and creators tonight and apart from being hindered by injuries, their quality going forward suffered with their players setup to overtly defend. Besides that, Dimas Delgado turned creator and destroyer for Bengaluru with niggling fouls. a tremendous desire to win the ball in midfield and had a very ‘none shall pass’ attitude about him.
Bengaluru FC are in the ISL final for a second year in a row and after finishing runners up last season – they will look to clinch the title this time around. With Goa handing Mumbai a jarring 5-1 defeat in the first leg in the other semi-final, the final on Sunday, March 17th will probably and deservedly be between the two best sides in the league – FC Goa and Bengaluru FC.