The Kanteerava Is An Inextricable Part Of Bengaluru FC Folklore, And Has Been A Cauldron Of Noise Whenever Called Upon. We’re Looking Back At The Five Best Knockout Matches The Blues Have Played At The Fortress…
The Sree Kanteerava Stadium or ‘The Fortress’ as it has come to be called by the Bengaluru FC faithful, has seen its fair share of ups and downs over the years. Win, lose or draw the stands have always come to back the Blues, and their energy has seen many a turnaround in the last nine years. With an Indian Super League knockout encounter fast approaching, we’re looking back at five of the most memorable knockout fixtures from years gone by.
Bengaluru FC 3-1 Johor Darul Ta’zim FC – 19 October, 2016
Bengaluru qualified for the 2016 AFC Cup as the 2015-16 I-League winners and also as champions of the Federation Cup in 2014-15.
The Blues were pitted against defending champions Johor Darul Ta’zim in the semifinals who had defeated them home and away in the previous edition’s group stage. The two teams played out a 1-1 draw in Johor on 28th September 2016 and met for the crucial second leg, three weeks later on 19th October, at the Fortress. It looked like business as usual for JDT who took the lead through Safiq Rahim in the 11th minute.
But the home side proved to be of different mettle, and with the home support behind them, the Albert Roca-led outfit stormed back to record a 3-1 win and make their way to the final of the AFC Cup, becoming the first and only Indian team to do so.
The skipper Sunil Chhetri led the charge with two fantastic strikes, the first being a thumping header from a corner in the 41st minute and then a 25-yard screamer in the second half. Spanish defender Juanan knocked the wind out of JDT’s sails by heading home the third to script a win of seismic proportions for the Blues.
Bengaluru FC 3-1 FC Pune City – 11 March, 2018
Bengaluru FC took the Hero Indian Super League by storm in their first season, finishing top of the table and making it to the semifinals where they came up against FC Pune City. With the first leg ending in a goalless stalemate, the onus was on the Blues to get the job done at home. What ensued though was the Sunil Chhetri show with the skipper bagging a hat-trick in front of a crowd of 24,214 at the Fortress.
Chhetri opened the scoring in the 15th minute, heading in a cross from Udanta Singh, and doubled the lead in the 67th minute when he converted a penalty with a cheeky panenka, having earlier been brought down in the box. Pune City got themselves back into the game in the 82nd minute, thanks to a free-kick converted by Jonatan Lucca. But the skipper was on hand to put the game to bed in the 89th minute, when he got behind the high line set by Pune’s defence and smashed home to send the Blues on their way to their first ISL final.
A lasting memory from the game would be Chhetri’s trademark run towards the West Block and a flying kiss to the fans after scoring his hat-trick.
Bengaluru FC 2-3 Altyn Asyr – 22 August, 2018
The first leg of the AFC Cup Inter-Zonal semifinals provided a spectacle at the Kanteerava as the Blues came up against Turkmen club Altyn Asyr.
The visitors seemed to have put the game beyond Bengaluru FC’s reach in the first half, running into a 0-3 lead at the break. But the Blues were egged on by a raucous Kanteerava to get themselves back into the game. Carles Cuadrat’s side pulled one back through Rahul Bheke in the 63rd minute, before Erik Paartalu headed home a cross from Udanta Singh in the 88th minute.
The game ended in defeat for the Blues but their spirit was evident in their comeback and particularly the lasting legacy left by the ever-supportive home crowd who encouraged the team on and led them to stage a fight back.
Bengaluru FC 3-0 NorthEast United FC – 11 March, 2019
The Blues featured in another memorable knockout game dated 11th March when they put NorthEast United to the sword in the second leg of their semifinal encounter against the Highlanders in the 2018-19 season.
Bengaluru lost the first leg in Guwahati thanks to a late penalty. The home side had their task cut out for them in the second leg. But they had a 21,636-strong Kanteerava behind them and posted a 3-0 win to make their second final in successive League seasons.
The first half saw Miku create a plethora of gilt-edged chances, but the Venezuelan couldn’t finish them off. With both teams heading in at the half-time break at 0-0, NorthEast still held the lead. The air around the Kanteerava began to grow cold with people on the edge of their seats. But Miku finally made amends by scoring off a cross from Udanta Singh in the 72nd minute to draw Bengaluru level.
The Blues continued to create chances but it wasn’t until the 87th minute when Udanta, who assisted the first goal, beat the NorthEast defence for pace on the counter following a corner. His attempted lob over the NorthEast’s keeper came off the post before Dimas Delgado stepped up to slot home and give the Blues the aggregate lead.
Sunil Chhetri once again stepped up when his side required him and slotted home the third in injury-time to wrap up a 4-2 aggregate win and send Bengaluru on their way to the final.
Bengaluru FC 1-0 ATK, 01 March 2020
Playing in their third successive playoffs, Bengaluru welcomed ATK to a packed Kanteerava for the first leg of their semifinal encounter in the 2019-20 season. The official attendance for the game stood at 20,754.
Although the game was decided by Deshorn Brown’s strike in the 31st minute, there was no shortage of chances on the night. Bengaluru relied on their defensive resilience to thwart a formidable ATK attack led by Roy Krishna and David Williams and take an advantage to the second leg in Kolkata.