[Source: Bengaluru/ Twitter]
Bengaluru FC booked their berth at the season final of the Hero Indian Super League (ISL) after coming out on top in an enthralling penalty shootout that went to sudden death. Gurpreet Singh Sandhu saved penalties at the start of the game and at the end of the shootout as Bengaluru FC won the tie-breaker after the fixture was tied on aggregate 2-2, following Mumbai City FC’s 2-1 result after extra time.
After 16 penalties were scored, Sandhu saved Mehtab Singh’s penalty before Sandesh Jhingan scored the winning spot-kick to give the Blues a 9-8 win on penalties.
The hosts started the game confidently, but the best opportunity fell to Mumbai City FC inside ten minutes. Sandhu fouled Jorge Diaz in the box to give away a penalty, but managed to go the right away when Greg Stewart stepped up to take it as Bengaluru FC kept their advantage intact.
Midway through the first half, the Islanders were put further behind in the fixture. From the left flank, Siva Narayanan floated a cross for Javi Hernandez, who managed to head it past Phurba Lachenpa to make it 2-0 on aggregate.
That goal kicked the Islanders into next gear, and they clawed back quickly at the half-hour mark. Sandhu was called into action again as he saved Rowlin Borges’ effort at the near post. However, the rebound went straight to an unmarked Bipin Singh, who side-footed the ball home.
In the 66th minute, Mumbai City FC levelled the semi-final tie courtesy of Mehtab’s towering header from a corner. Three minutes later, Lachenpa got his fingertips on a Hernandez shot as the game headed into extra time with no other substantial chances for either team.
In extra time, both teams had chances on which they didn’t capitalise. Diaz was picked out by Vikram Singh with a low cross but failed to keep it on target from close range. Towards the end of the first period, Roy Krishna’s header was kept out by Lachenpa, and Mourtada Fall almost kicked the rebound into the back of his own net but was saved by the post.
In the second period, Pablo Perez came close to capitalising on Lachenpa’s spill before he recovered to punch it away. At the end, Lachenpa rescued the visitors again when he kept Alan Costa’s header out as the game went to penalties and Bengaluru FC held their nerves for the win.
The loss brings League Shield Winners Mumbai City FC’s journey in the Hero ISL where they had a historic unbeaten run in the first 18 games of the season. Bengaluru FC will now face either ATK Mohun Bagan or Hyderabad FC in the Hero ISL final on Saturday, March 18.