At the Sree Kanteerava Stadium on Sunday, Bengaluru FC sealed their berth in the final of Indian Super League (ISL) as they got the better of FC Pune City in a 3-1 result. Sunil Chhetri bagged a hat-trick (15’, 65’ and 89’) while Jonatan Lucca netted the consolation goal in the 82nd minute.
Albert Roca made two changes from the first leg at the Balewadi Stadium as Erik Paartalu and Udanta Singh replaced Toni Dovale and Lenny Rodrigues; Isaac Vanmalsawma was the only alteration made by Ranko Popovic as he was introduced in place of the injured Ashique Kuruniyan.
The match started on an entertaining note with skipper Sunil Chhetri having the first chance of the game in the third minute; he, however, failed to slot home from sniffing distance from Udanta Singh's low cross. A minute later, custodian Gurpreet Singh Sandhu showcased his reflexes as he got a vital touch on a deflected effort from Diego Carlos inside the 18-yard-box.
The home side didn’t take too long to break the deadlock as Sunil Chhetri stepped up in the 15th minute. A failed clearance from Stallions at the halfway line fell into the feet of Udanta Singh who played it for Sunil Chhetri in the centre. Post several spins and turns, the skipper preyed on the Pune defence and played in Udanta to his right; the latter whipped in a cross for the striker inside the box. An unmarked Chhetri headed it into the net, beyond the reach of goalkeeper Kaith and defensive duo of Adil Khan and Gurtej Singh.
Around the half-hour mark, the visitors had the opportunity to redeem themselves. A clever through ball from Emiliano Alfaro found an onrushing Marcelinho inside the box. The Brazilian crossed from the left but the chance went in vain as Pune had no bodies in front of the goal to get to the end of the delivery.
Minutes before the break, the Eagles had a set-piece opportunity. Unmarked yet again, Chhetri jumped high to head the ball, only to see it go wide of the goal by merely a few inches.
The second half saw two early chances, one at each end. First, in the 48th minute, Uruguayan Alfaro was guilty of blasting the ball into the stands after Sarthak Golui fed him a good cross. Three minutes later, the sensational Udanta attempted a thunderbolt from distance but it flew just wide of Kaith’s goal.
29-year-old Alfaro didn’t have the best day at the office as he failed to deliver yet again in the 55th minute. In a similar incident, positioned close to the goal, Alfaro was unsuccessful in keeping his header on target; the loose delivery was later met by Diego Carlos but his shot hit the side-netting.
Dominating the proceedings right from the beginning, Bengaluru doubled their lead in the 65th minute. Charging from the left and into the box, Chhetri was brought down by defender Sarthak which gifted a penalty to the hosts. From the spot, Chhetri executed a Panenka to fool custodian Kaith, thereby edging closer to a place in the finale.
The home side didn’t keep quiet despite the two-goal cushion as Bheke and Chhetri tried to go for a third strike. In the 68th minute, Rahul Bheke’s power-packed long-range strike ricocheted off the crossbar while four minutes later, Chhetri’s curling effort was kept out by a diving Kaith.
Against the run of play, Pune bounced back in the 82nd minute after the hosts were guilty of awarding a free-kick. From the set-piece, substitute Jonatan Lucca executed a belter of a delivery which swung into the net, leaving goalkeeper Gurpreet with no answer.
However, the defence of Pune was put to shame for one last time in the 89th minute as Chhetri bagged this third goal of the night. A lobbed ball from Dimas Delgado found Chhetri up-front who raced past a sorry Rohit Kumar to slot the ball past Kaith between the sticks; successfully registering his hat-trick of the night.
This was enough to seal a berth in the finale for Bengaluru where they will lock horns with the winner of the second semi-final between Chennaiyin and Goa.