Former I-League champions Bengaluru FC progressed to the final of 2017 Federation Cup, courtesy an 8th minute goal from Cameron Watson from a penalty kick. The result ended in a 0-1 score-line which saw Amrinder Singh making a golden save at death to seal the victory and a spot in the ultimate fixture of the tournament for his side.
The Mizoram outfit lined up in their usual 4-4-2 formation which saw Ivorian Kamo Bayi and 24-year-old Jayesh Rane lead the attack. Ashutosh Mehta, who featured in the Reds ’ previous tie against East Bengal, was again dropped to the bench as Lalramchullova filled up the shoes of a right-back. Brandon Vanlalremdika and Laldanmawia Ralte continued operating on the flanks as Kingsley Obumneme lead Khalid Jamil’s army in the first semi-final.
As for the Blues from Bengaluru, Albert Roca opted for a 5-4-1 shape where the backline comprised Harmanjot Khabra, Sandesh Jhingan, John Johnson, Salam Ranjan Singh and Juanan. In the absence of skipper Sunil Chhetri, Shillong born Eugeneson Lyngdoh replaced the Indian ace whereas 28-year-old CK Vineeth started up-top as Manipuri Seminlen Doungel was placed on the bench.
The JSW owned side had a merry start to the game as they found themselves an early lead through Cameron Watson's 8th minute strike. CK Vineeth, on the right, delivered a cross for Alwyn George who was inside the opposition's box. However, the latter was brought down by the Aizawl FC defense which led to the Bengaluru side being gifted a penalty. Melbourne born Cameron Watson stood up for the penalty kicked as he slotted the ball towards the right side of the net which couldn't be saved by a diving Albino Gomes.
Just five minutes later, Khalid Jamil's men came really close to sealing the equaliser. Alfred Jaryan, Mahmoud Al Amna and Lalruatthara combined well to spice up things in the middle of the park. The midfielders confused the defensive forces of Blues which left space for them to hunt for the goal. Alfred Jaryan sent a through ball for Kamo Bayi who had space wide open to him and was also onside. The Ivorian attempted to shoot at the target but a well-timed tackle from Juanan cut away the danger.
One could witness end-to-end action at Cuttack as both sides kept striving to find the net. In the 21st minute, CK Vineeth ran towards the goal in what is almost a one-one-on situation but defender Kingsley Obumneme made sure he doesn't leave his man unmarked as he followed the Kerala Blasters player. The Aizawl FC captain put in a great tackle which stopped the Bengaluru FC attacker's move. However, Vineeth later sent the ball behind, to Alwyn George, who was in a good position to shoot but he goofed up as the ball was sent too high over the bar.
Around the half-mark hour, the reigning I-League champions came close to leveling up things again. This time it was their star striker Kamo Bayi who had a golden opportunity. Laldanmawia had sent in a cross from the right to find Kamo Bayi inside the box. The Ivorian was totally unmarked and succeeded to head the ball towards the target. However, the delivery went wide and the defenders in blue are relieved.
Just 12 minutes after this incident, the South India outfit got close to doubing their lead. Cameron Watson shot a long ranger which was accurately timed. The delivery was totally on target but the shooter was unfortunate as it came off the woodwork. That was the last action from the first half as the two teams entered the tunnel at the half-time whistle on a 0-1 score-line in the favour of the side from Karnataka.
The second half witnessed a dire game of football from both ends as the two teams failed to finish off their chances. The Blues kept striving for another goal to award themselves the two goal cushion but a tight defensive display from Aizawl FC kept the Blues restricted to just one goal.
However, the side from Mizoram didn't succeed in creating chances either as they put up a below-par performance in open play. As far as the set-pieces were concerned, Khalid Jamil wouldn't be satisfied either as his men failed to convert from the several set-piece situations they were gifted.
Jayesh Rane, a formidable element of Aizawl's attack had a bad day at office as the 24-year-old failed to trouble the opposition. Kamo Bayi too couldn't finish the chances either as the Ivorian was often blocked by the defenders in blue.
It was in the dying moments of the tie that things got intense when Khalid Jamil's men put pressure on Albert Roca's blue army. It was Laldanmawia who cut past Harmanjot Khabra on the left to shoot at the goal in the 90th minute, but the safe hands of Amrinder Singh made sure the delivery won't go past him.
However, in the 97th minute, Aizawl FC were gifted the last chance to get themselves back into the game when the referee awarded them a penalty. An onrushing Kamo Bayi was brought down by Sandesh Jhingan inside the box which led to a spot-kick. Lalramchullova stepped up for the final opportunity of putting up an equalizer however the 21-year-old couldn't get the better of Amrinder Singh as the goalkeeper dived to the right side of the delivery.
The Punjabi player's save meant that the Blues survived the nervy moments and progressed to the final of the tournament. Bengaluru FC will face the winner of the Kolkata derby on 21st May in the ultimate tie of the competition.