Jhingan Scores Winning Spot-Kick As Blues Pip Islanders 9-8 On Penalties; Enter Third Indian Super League final
Bengaluru: Bengaluru FC qualified to the Indian Super League final for the third time in the club’s history after a penalty shootout win following a 2-2 tie on aggregate in their semifinal 2nd leg against Mumbai City FC, at the Kanteerava Stadium, in Bengaluru, on Sunday. Javi Hernandez scored the Blues’ opener, before goals from Bipin Singh and Mehtab Singh drew the Islanders level to take the tie to penalties.
Blues Head Coach Simon Grayson went with an unchanged lineup once again, with Roy Krishna and Sivasakthi leading the line. Mumbai, meanwhile made one change, with Rowllin Borges replacing Lalengmawia Ralte in the starting lineup.
The Blues began aggressively, making plenty of forays into the Islanders’ box and coming close on a few occasions. But the tense narrative of the game became evident within just the 8th minute when Bengaluru ’keeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu was adjudged to have brought Jorge Diaz in the box, which led to referee Rahul Kumar Gupta pointing to the spot. But Sandhu staged a redemption act, diving full stretch to his left to keep Greg Srewart’s low hit out, followed by a second save right after.
Bengaluru made their strong start count in the 22nd minute. Sivasakthi got past Mehtab Singh and sent in a cross which was nodded home by Javi Hernandez to give the Blues the lead, and add to the aggregate.
In a game where both teams were creating chances with aplomb, it didn’t take long for Mumbai to get themselves a goal, as Bipin Singh equalized on the night at the half-hour mark. Rowllin Borges’ attempt in the box was saved by Gurpreet, only for the ball to fall into the feet of Bipin who slotted home from close range.
Mumbai got themselves back into the game and came close to a second when Vignesh Dakshinamurthy’s looping cross left Gurpreet scrambling before hitting the woodwork.
Despite the plethora of chances created by the two teams, the scoreline stayed at 1-1 bringing to an end a captivating first 45 minutes of football.
Into the second period, the game flowed at the same tempo as the first. Des Buckingham’s men took the attack to Bengaluru from the wings and peppered the home team with crosses. But Grayson’s backline stood firmly to nip Mumbai’s attacks in the bud.
The Islanders, though, would not be denied for long as Mehtab Singh rose highest to head home from a corner by Stewart, in the 65th minute, to put Mumbai in the lead on the night and restore parity in the aggregate scoreline. In the aftermath of the goal, Grayson brought on Sunil Chhetri in place of Sivasakthi, to add some impetus to the attack. Mumbai followed suit by bringing on Vikram Pratap Singh to replace Bipin.
With a spot in the final at stake, both teams continued to battle, matching each other, step-for-step, as the game moved into extra-time following the aggregate scoreline being tied at 2-2.
Ahead of extra time, Mumbai once again shuffled the pack, bringing on Vinit Rai in place of Rowllin Borges. Grayson also went to his bench, bringing on Alan Costa and Pablo Perez in place of Bruno Ramires and Aleksandar Jovanovic.
Bengaluru had a great chance to equalize on the night in the 102nd minute, when Roy Krishna’s header was saved by Mumbai ’keeper Phurba Lachenpa before Mourtada Fall’s attempted clearance ricocheted off the upright to save Mumbai’s blushes.
Despite the relentless attempts, the two sides couldn’t plot a way to get the ball into the net. In the 109th minute, Jorge Diaz missed a great chance to further his side’s lead on the night, when he found himself, unmarked in the box, at the end of a cross by Stewart, but the Argentine headed his shot over the crossbar from point-blank range.
Missed chances continued to be the name of the game, with Perez playing a delightful one-two with Chhetri before spooning his effort straight into the hands of Lachenpa. A few minutes later, Alan Costa rose the highest in the cross to head a cross from Javi, but his effort went narrowly wide off the post. With nothing to separate the two sides at the end of extra time, it came down to a penalty shootout to decide a winner.
The game moved into sudden death after both sides scored their first five respective penalties. After eight penalties, Gurpreet went the right way to save Mehtab’s effort to give Bengaluru the chance to seal the deal. Up stepped Sandesh Jhingan to score the winning penalty and send the Blues on their way to the final.
The Blues will now await the winner of the other semifinal between Hyderabad FC and ATK Mohun Bagan, among whom they will face on at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, in Goa, on Saturday.