Haokip brace sends Bengaluru FC through to Junior League final

Blue Colts Down Kerala Blasters 2-0 In Semifinal; To Face Defending Champions Minerva In Summit Clash

Kolkata: Bengaluru FC continued their impressive run as they defeated neighbours Kerala Blasters 2-0 in dominant fashion in the semifinal of the Hero Junior League at the Kalyani Stadium, in Kolkata, on Monday. In a dominant show, a second-half brace from substitute Sonminthang Haokip (54’, 55’) was enough to send Bengaluru FC through to the grand finale of the competition further extending their one hundred percent record.

The Blue Colts followed suit of the Sub-Junior League counterparts in reaching the final as they went one step ahead of last year’s performance where they were knocked out via penalties at the same stage. In winning their twelfth consecutive game of the campaign, Bengaluru have now set up a final against defending champions Minerva Punjab FC, who sealed their place in the big game with a win over Shillong Lajong FC earlier in the day.

The Blue Colts began the game on the front foot, seizing control from the get go. They had a great chance in the 10th minute when Bekey Oram found himself in the clear in the box only to be hacked down by an onrushing Aman Kumar Sahni in the rival goal. Despite a clear two-footed challenge that failed to get a touch on the ball, referee Joyshing Thumli opted to play on much to the dismay of the Bengaluru boys.

Nonetheless, they kept their composure and continued pushing forward. Just past the half hour mark, Ajay Chorge’s boys almost took the lead when Bekey’s floated delivery in from the right found Manish at the far post whose attempt on the volley was palmed on to the crossbar by Sahni. The Blasters’ custodian once again came to his side’s rescue minutes later when he blocked Alfred Lalroutsang’s close range attempt.

It was agonizing for winger, Manish who had back-to-back attempts denied. First, his powerful left-footer from distance came off the crossbar before another close-range attempt went straight to Sahni.

Bengaluru finally converted their dominance into goals in the second half when they struck back-to-back goals ten minutes after restart. Substitute Haokip, on for Rakesh Meitei, struck a quick-fire double to put the Blue Colts in the driving seat.

The striker was sent through by playmaker Damaitphang Lyngdoh on the right before he controlled and fired a left-footed grounder past the rival ’keeper in the 54th minute. Just moments later, a quick counter attack saw Bekey release Haokip in the rival half on the right, and although his first attempt was saved by Sahni, the striker controlled and slotted home on the rebound to complete his brace.

The Blue Colts dominated majority of the proceedings thereafter and had another great chance in the final minutes of the game. Manish, sent clear with a cross from Lastborn Mawphniang, saw his header come off the crossbar for the third time on the afternoon.

Bengaluru FC now face defending champions Minerva Punjab in the final at the Kalyani Stadium on May 29.