Chhetri’s hat-trick propels Bengaluru to final
Bengaluru FC defeated FC Pune City 3 – 1 at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium in Bengaluru in the second leg of the first semi-final of Hero Indian Super League (ISL) 2017-18 on Sunday. Sunil Chhetri led from the front, scoring a hat-trick, while Jonatan Lucca grabbed a lone consolation for the visitors as Pune bowed out of the competition.
The Blues had a great chance as early as the third minute. Udanta Singh sped away on the right flank and put in a good cross for Chhetri in the box. But Bengaluru’s captain, who was slightly overstretched, could not find the target.
Just a couple of minutes later, Pune nearly went ahead when Diego Carlos turned his marker and had a crack at goal. His shot took a deflection and wrong-footed Blues custodian Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, but the goalkeeper showed amazing reflexes to put the ball out for a corner. With 13 minutes on the clock, the Stallions fashioned a chance when Marko Stankovic tested Gurpreet with a shot from distance. But the Bengaluru keeper got down quickly to make the save.
With a quarter of an hour played, Bengaluru got the first goal of the tie. Udanta showed great feet to outfox a couple of defenders on the right and put in a cross for Chhetri. The latter’s header was not powerful, but it looped over Stallions keeper Vishal Kaith who was caught in no-man’s land.
Following that, Pune tried taking the attack to their opponents, but Bengaluru’s defence led by John Johnson, kept thwarting them. Then three minutes before half-time, Chhetri almost found his and his team’s second. He leaped high to meet Erik Paartalu’s corner but put his header just wide as Bengaluru took a 1 – 0 lead into the break.
Six minutes after the restart, Udanta had a shy on goal from outside the box, and his effort missed the target by a whisker, much to the relief of Kaith who was rooted to the spot. Five minutes after the hour-mark, the Blues doubled their advantage. Chhetri skipped past Sarthak Golui inside the box, but was brought down with the latter’s tackle from behind. He himself stepped up for the spot-kick and showed nerves of steel to deceive Kaith with a Panenka.
Then on 69 minutes, Rahul Bheke chested down a headed clearance and put his laces through a half-volley. But much to the agony of the home crowd, his effort rattled the crossbar. Three minutes later Chhetri was at it again when he tried to curl in an effort into the far post from outside the box. However, Kaith stretched himself to palm the ball away.
The Stallions pulled a goal back with eight minutes to play. Substitute Jonatan Lucca stepped up for a free-kick and curled it beautifully into the top corner giving Gurpreet no chance. However, Chhetri put the game to bed a minute from time when he latched on to a lovely through-ball from Dimas Delgado before calmly slotting the ball past Kaith to complete his hat-trick and put Bengaluru in the final.
Club Award: Bengaluru FC
Swift Limitless Player: Gurpreet Singh Sandhu
DHL Winning Pass of the Match: Udanta Singh
Amul Fittest Player: Dimas Delgado
Emerging Player: Isaac Vanmalswama
Hero of the Match: Sunil Chhetri
Watch the match highlights here: