Super Cup

In familiar settings and circumstances, the inaugural Super Cup was a campaign of comebacks for Albert Roca’s Bengaluru Football Club. Another season had gone by without a League title to show for, this time at the very last hurdle, and the tournament posed the Blues’ last shot at winning a fifth title in as many seasons.

Bengaluru qualified for the tournament by virtue of finishing the Indian Super League atop the standings, and entered in the pre-quarterfinal stage, facing Gokulam Kerala FC in the opener; a team that had earned its title as ‘giant killers’ in the I-League.

A first-half strike from Henry Kissekka meant the climb was uphill for Roca’s boys, and the view was seen at full time when Miku and Udanta assisted each other to make it 2-1. The Flash with his usual burst of pace, first set up the Venezuelan, and the number 7 returned the favour with a cool chop and square for Udanta to finish with the last shot of the game.

Bengaluru would then face NEROCA FC in the quarterfinal, a match they dominated from start to finish. Udanta grabbed his second assist of the tournament when his cross was parried into the path of Sunil Chhetri. However, a fumble from Gurpreet Singh Sandhu in the BFC goal allowed NEROCA an equalizer in the second period. The skipper then made it 2-1, beating the offside trop and slotting home with just over 20 minutes to go. With the game seemingly done and dusted, Roca sent on Toni Dovale, who assisted the skipper for his third on the night, using his marker for cover and finishing into the far corner. The semifinals beckoned!

As if the tests weren’t tough enough, the Blues faced Mohun Bagan in the semifinal of the 2018 Super Cup. An early goal from Dipanda Dicka against the run of play had the Blues on the back foot once again and to add salt to the scars, Nishu Kumar was given his marching orders five minutes into the second half.

But as they do, Bengaluru kept fighting. Victor Perez, who had replaced the injured Dimas Delgado in the squad, played a quick reverse pass for Udanta who sped past his marker and cut one across in the hope of finding a BFC shirt. Miku would poke it past an oncoming tackle, then compose himself before shooting past three defenders and Shilton Paul to bring things level.

If the first goal was a work of art, the second was deception at its finest. Having won a free-kick, Miku got up and stayed onside while Dovale stabbed it forward for the Venezuelan. With Bagan defenders caught unawares, Miku slapped one hard and home past Paul.

Bengaluru would then win a penalty that Chhetri would let Miku score for his hat-trick and as if he felt left out, the skipper would score one for himself, and arguably the best of the night. Bringing down Gurpreet’s long punt forward, Chhetri skipper past one defender and whipped one delightfully past the reach of Paul to make it 4-1.

Bagan would score another in injury time, but it didn’t matter because the Blues were through to the final, where yet another I-League team waited in East Bengal FC for a fight to the finish.

As if it was customary, East Bengal took the lead in the 2018 Super Cup final with Ansumana Kromah scoring in the 28th. Erik Paartalu did everything he could, but had his studs caught in the net because his acrobatic effort to clear the line went in vain. Bengaluru piled on the pressure, and ten minutes later, found the net through Rahul Bheke, who headed home Perez’s corner to bring things level.

The Kolkata-side were down to ten men when Samad Ali Mallick threw an elbow at Subhasish Bose and the Blues quickly took note. Chhetri stepped up to dispatch a penalty, before Miku turned to create space and smash one past Ubaid CK to make it 3-1. The final nail on the coffin came when Chhetri climbed high to head home a fourth goal (4-1), his fifth of the tournament and win the Blues their fifth trophy in as many years.

Gurpreet, Mawia, Bheke, Juanan, Johnson, Subhasish, Khabra, Zotea, Paartalu, Lenny, Perez, Udanta, Dovale, Boithang, Daniel, Semboi, Miku, Chhetri

Head Coach: Albert Roca

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