Bengaluru break NorthEast hearts to secure their spot in the final

Bengaluru FC scored three late goals to knock NorthEast United FC out of the Hero Indian Super League (Hero ISL) 2018-19 and sealed their spot in the March 17 final. With a 1-2 deficit from the first leg of their semi-final encounter to overturn, it took the Blues 72 minutes to break down the Highlanders in the second leg at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium in Bengaluru. Carles Cuadrat’s men then went on to add two more to their tally and went through with a 4-2 aggregate.

For NorthEast, the loss marks the end of a phenomenal campaign which saw them reach the semi-finals for the first time in the club’s history despite having to deal with several injuries throughout the season.

  • Miku missed three big chances in the first half.
  • Miku redeemed himself and scored on the 72nd minute to give Bengaluru the crucial 1-0 lead.
  • Dimas Delgado made it 2-0 on the 87th minute and Sunil Chhetri wrapped up the 3-0 win in stoppage time.

Bartholomew Ogbeche, who suffered a hamstring injury during the first leg in Guwahati, started the match from the bench for NorthEast. The Highlanders also lost captain Robert Lalthlamuana before the match, with the left-back picking up a knock during warm-up. Keegan Pereira came into the XI to replace him. Bengaluru, on the other hand, dropped defender Albert Serran to the bench and drafted in last match's goal scorer, Xisco Hernandez, to the starting XI. It was evident from the starting line-up that the home team would be going all out from the get-go.

As expected, the home team started the match at breakneck speeds, forcing the Highlanders to defend deep. However, the first big chance of the match fell NorthEast's way. Federico Gallego nicked the possession from a careless Dimas Delgado and threaded a pass through for Juan Mascia. The striker hit the target but Gurpreet Singh Sandhu had his angles covered to deny the Argentine.

The match seemed tightly balanced on a knife's edge, with Bengaluru enjoying most of the possession but NorthEast looking like a potent threat on the break.

It was evident that the first goal in the match would prove crucial and Bengaluru came close on the 23rd minute when Nishu Kumar picked out Miku inside the box with a brilliant cross from the left wing. The Venezuelan's header, however, went inches wide.

Minutes later, Miku had a chance at redemption after Udanta Singh found the Venezuelan unmarked in the danger zone with a cut back from the right. With the move begging for a finish, Miku rushed his shot and skied his effort.

On the 33rd minute, Miku seemed like a man on a mission as he weaved pasted five NorthEast defenders with ease. With only Pawan Kumar to beat and a potential goal of the season nomination beckoning, the Bengaluru no. 7 could only manage a tame toe poke straight into Pawan’s hands.

Minutes before the first half ended, Mascia could have made Bengaluru rue their several misses. The striker did wonderfully well to hold off Alejandro Barrera and let one rip. Gurpreet had to fly in to rescue his team and keep the scoreline 0-0 going into the break.

Bengaluru players came flying off the blocks after the restart and forced NorthEast goalkeeper Pawan Kumar to make back-to-back stunning saves to keep out Xisco and Nishu.

Ten minutes into the second half, NorthEast were dealt another hammer blow. Gallego sustained a serious injury during a last-ditch tackle on Miku and had to be carried off the field in an ambulance. Winger Panagiotis Triadis replaced the injured Uruguayan.

On the 68th minute, Bengaluru created another big chance with a well-worked set-piece routine. Juanan found himself with a sight at goal but couldn’t keep his effort on target. The home team, however, did find the all-important goal four minutes later. Xisco showed some great control on the flanks and laid the ball off for Udanta. The youngster fizzed his cross in and Miku found the slightest of touches to guide the ball past Pawan and into the net. It was also incidentally the 250th goal of the season.

The Blues could have scored another just minutes later. This time Miku played Udanta in with a cheeky pass. The winger’s shot from a tight angle was blocked off by Pawan.

The nippy winger was at the thick of things yet again on the 79th minute after he went down inside the box under pressure from Keegan. The referee, however, promptly dismissed the penalty claims. Almost immediately on the other end, Mato Grgic failed to keep his header on target to bring the Highlanders level.

With the Highlanders pouring men forward in the final minutes, a quick breakway from a NorthEast corner made it 2-0. Udanta got hold of the ball, rode a challenge and carried the ball almost 70 yards into the Highlanders’ box. With the angle too wide for a shot, the youngster tried a cheeky chip to catch Pawan out. The NorthEast custodian backtracked and kept the ball out of the goal, but Dimas Delgado slotted in from the follow up to make it 2-0.

Sunil Chhetri scored from another counter attack in stoppage time to secure the victory and Bengaluru’s progression to the Hero ISL 2018-19 final in Mumbai on March 17.

HERO OF THE MATCH – Miku

Despite missing three big chances in the first half, Miku showed exceptional character and never let his head drop. With time running out, the Venezuelan popped up with the crucial opening goal of the match and staked his claim on the Hero of the Match award.

CLUB AWARDS

Club Award – Bengaluru FC

Swift Limitless Player of the Match – Dimas Delgado

DHL Winning Pass of the Match – Udanta Singh 

ISL Emerging Player of the Match – Nishu Kumar

Hero of the Match – Miku

What’s Next?

Bengaluru will play either FC Goa or Mumbai City FC in the Hero ISL 2018-19 final on March 17.

Watch the match highlight here:

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