Road to the final: How Bengaluru FC overcame a tricky path to reach Hero Super Cup final
The football season kicks off with every club dreaming of winning as many trophies as they can but the as the challenges grow, the ambitions have to be often altered. But nothing has been able to stop Bengaluru FC's winning chariot. One of the most consistent teams of the year, the Blues will be out on pitch one more time to fight for their second trophy of the season, the Hero Super Cup, after securing the Durand Cup at the beginning of the season.
After losing the Hero ISL final on penalties against ATK Mohun Bagan, the Blues turned their attention to the Hero Super Cup and displayed why they are the front runners to win the trophy. Simon Grayson's side were placed in Group A along with Sreenidi Deccan FC, Kerala Blasters FC and RoundGlass Punjab FC.
The group stage posed a difficult challenge with two of the most in-form teams from the Hero I-League, the winners RoundGlass Punjab FC and the runners up in Sreenidi Deccan FC looking to secure their qualification and Bengaluru FC's southern rivals, Kerala Blasters FC eyeing revenge for their defeat in the Hero ISL knockout match.
A sticky start
Two teams who fell one step short of clinching their respective titles, Bengaluru FC and Sreenidi Deccan FC looked on to start their Hero Super Cup with a win but the match turned out differently.
The Blues started off on the front-foot and opened the scoring in the ninth minute with Javier Hernandez scoring on rebound after his initial effort was saved by Aryan Lamba in the Hero I-League participant's goal. Sreenidi Deccan FC responded well and got the equaliser just after 12 minutes with a goal from their Afghan international Faysal Shayesteh whose shot deflected off Parag Shrivas and went into the back of the net.
Both sides continued to pile on the pressure and looked on for the winner but had to settle for a single point each in their Group A opening fixture.
An important win against RoundGlass Punjab FC
Bengaluru FC met the Hero I-League winners in the second match of the Group A and the fixture was a crucial one after both teams had failed to get their desired start to the Hero Super Cup campaigns.
The fixture started off with RoundGlass Punjab FC controlling the fair share of the possession and knocking on Gurpreet Singh Sandhu's doors but failed to get their noses in front. Juan Mera Gonzales set up Krishnananda Singh in the 11th minute but the striker failed to convert his shot. Rohit Kumar came close to open the scoring for Bengaluru FC but his powerful shot hit the crossbar and came out to leave the midfielder frustrated.
In the second half, the Blues put their foot on the pedal in the search of the opening goal but RoundGlass Punjab FC custodian Kiran Limbu displayed a motivated performance between the sticks to keep Simon Grayson's men at bay. The Nepalese goalkeeper saved efforts from Sunil Chhetri and Udanta Singh from close range but the deadlock was finally broken in the 66th minute when Limbu parried out the substitute Pablo Perez's powerful header but this time Udanta Singh headed the ball in on rebound to give the lead to the Hero ISL finalists.
To make the comeback even more difficult for RoundGlass Punjab FC, the referee sent Huidrom Noacha Singh off after he received his second yellow card for a foul on Namgyal Bhutia. Eventually, the Blues doubled their lead deep into the stoppage time, Javi Hernandez doubled his goal tally as he converted his penalty from the spot calmly after he was brought down in the box by Mohammad Salah.
After an inspired performance the Blues picked up all three points against a resilient RoundGlass Punjab FC.
The Battle of the rivals
In the final Group A fixture, Bengaluru FC faced Kerala Blasters FC needing to win in order to have a chance of reaching the semi-finals.
After a strong start, the Blues firmed their grip on proceedings when Javi Hernandez's darting run helped set up Roy Krishna who slotted it home to give the Blues the lead in the 21st minute. The hosts looked to gain control of the fixture after the opening goal and came close to doubling their lead but Roshan Singh missed his chance after Udanta Singh set up the full-back for the attempt.
The second half saw the Blasters put out a much improved show and tried to work Sandhu in the Blues goal but the towering goalkeeper stood strong to guard his goal. The efforts finally paid off for Kerala Blasters FC in the 77th minute when the Blues failed to a cross into the penalty box and Dimitrios Diamanatakos' looping header beat Sandhu to bring the match back into parity.
The match ended 1-1 and the Blues booked the semi-final spot after RoundGlass Punjab FC saw off Sreenidi Deccan FC in the last group match and Bengaluru FC topped a very tough group.
Ticket to the Finale
Bengaluru FC locked horns with high-flying Jamshedpur FC in the semi-final clash. The Men of Steel were the only unbeaten team of the league, winning all of their three group stage matches as the semi-final looked perfectly set for a spectacle.
Aidy Boothroyd's men started off sharply with Gurpreet Singh Sandhu saving Jay Emmanuel-Thomas' shot and Daniel Chima Chukwu failing to poke the rebound in with Sandhu making the double save to keep the clean sheet intact. The first half ended with no goals scored as both teams failed to create anything concrete.
The second half saw both teams become more ruthless in their attacks to get the opening goal. It was Bengaluru FC who drew the first blood, Jayesh Rane rose highest to head the ball past TP Rehenesh from a looping cross. The Men of Steel chased the game for an equaliser but it was the Blues who scored another goal to deliver the killer blow to Boothroyd's team as Sunil Chhetri scored in the 83rd minute to take the game away from Jamshedpur FC's hands.
Bengaluru FC will take on Odisha FC in the Hero Super Cup final at the EMS Corporation Stadium, in Kozhikode, Kerala, on Tuesday.