INDIAN SUPER LEAGUE

Road to Goa: Bengaluru FC is the Phoenix rising from the ashes

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This season’s Hero Indian Super League (ISL) campaign for Bengaluru FC has resulted in one of the most amazing turnarounds in Indian sport. They may not have played flamboyant football, but they were efficient in every passing game.

The Blues, who started the season in the bottom part of the table with only ten points after twelve games, finished fourth in the Hero ISL standings with 34 points from 20 games. They defeated Kerala Blasters FC in the knockouts to secure a semi-final berth after two seasons. Simon Grayson’s squad won in dramatic manner in their penultimate match against the League Shield Winners’ Mumbai City FC to go to their third Hero ISL final.

As the Blues prepare to face ATK Mohun Bagan for the coveted Hero ISL trophy, let’s look back at how they got there and who suffered as a result.

Read More :- From zero to hero: Bengaluru FC ‘s incredible journey to the ISL final

Their campaign got off to a shaky start

Bengaluru FC had their sights set on a comeback to the top of the Hero ISL after winning the Durand Cup earlier in the season after failing to reach the semi-finals for two consecutive seasons.

The Blues started the season well, with a win against NorthEast United FC in the first game and a draw against Chennaiyin FC in the second. Grayson’s team, however, lost 1-0 to Hyderabad FC, 1-0 to Odisha FC, 1-0 to East Bengal, and 4-0 to Mumbai City FC in a string of poor performances. This was only the second occasion in Hero ISL history that BFC had to suffer four straight defeats.

Bengaluru FC were wallowing in the bottom half of the Hero ISL standings with only 10 points from twelve games and the reason for their awful play was still unknown. Grayson went to a back three after splashing around for most of the season and managed to find the appropriate pieces when they faced NorthEast United FC for the rematch in Matchweek 14.

Following a goalless first 45 minutes, the visitors changed gears and surged ahead five minutes into the second half thanks to a fantastic shot from Sivasakthi Narayanan. But, 16 minutes later, Romain Philippoteaux equalised for the Highlanders with a free kick right outside the area.

Just as it appeared like Bengaluru FC would continue their poor form, Brazilian defender Alan Costa responded to the situation, scoring a header in the fourth minute of stoppage time to clinch all three points for his team.

Grayson’s team never looked back after that, going on to record a 10-game winning run.

The first victory came against ATK Mohun Bagan

The hosts, ATK Mohun Bagan, enjoyed a good share of possession in the first half, and both teams headed into the halftime break with good chances to score.

Javi Hernandez scored the first goal in the 78th minute, and Roy Krishna added another in stoppage time. ATKMB’s Dimitri Petratos cut the gap in the last minutes, but it was not enough to halt Bengaluru FC’s winning streak.

It was the Blues’ first victory in the Hero ISL versus ATK Mohun Bagan, and their fifth in a row.

Puncturing Mumbai City FC’s ‘Invincibles’ Hope

Bengaluru FC were riding high as they welcomed the freshly crowned League Shield winners, Mumbai City FC, with vengeance on their mind.

Although the visitors beginning the game strongly and with a strong offensive intent, Sunil Chhetri scored from a corner in the second half. Javi extended the hosts’ advantage before Mourtada Fall drew one back for the visitors. The Islanders continued to press for an equaliser, but the Blues held on to their advantage and cruised to victory.

The result ended MCFC’s 18-game undefeated record and removed them from the ‘Invincibles’ label.

Bengaluru FC faced up against arch-rivals Kerala Blasters FC in the new knockout stage of the Hero ISL, with the Blues coming into this match on the strength of eight straight victories.

The Blasters controlled possession from the start but failed to produce any clear-cut scoring chances. Grayson’s team was willing to sit back and attack on the break.

Both managers were successful in their aim to not surrender a goal as the game progressed into extra time, where the game began to gather up momentum.

In the seventh minute of the first half of extra time, skipper Chhetri identified a chance and scored from a fast free-kick. KBFC forfeited the game in protest of the goal from the free-kick ruling, and Bengaluru FC was granted the victory.

Ticket to the Grand Finale

If there was one thing that was evident about BFC’s trip in the Hero ISL 2022-23 season, it was that they have always enjoyed a little of drama. Questions were expressed regarding Bengaluru FC’s ability to sustain its winning streak before of their semi-final match against Mumbai City FC.

The Islanders controlled the opening leg and produced several important opportunities, but the Blues held them off with a strong defensive performance. Grayson brought Chhetri towards the hour mark, who just seized hold of the game. With his presence, BFC began to create more powerful opportunities, and the veteran striker, as predicted, handed his side a key one-goal lead in the first leg.

Des Buckingham’s team opened the second leg on the front foot, behind by a goal, but BFC ‘keeper Sandhu saved Greg Stewart from the penalty spot inside the first ten minutes. The Blues responded hard and extended their lead in the tie via Hernandez, before Bipin Singh and Mehtab Singh levelled the tie on aggregate.

After 16 penalties were scored, Sandhu emerged as the hero once more, save Mehtab Singh’s chance before Sandesh Jhingan buried the winning spot-kick into the right bottom corner to earn the Blues a 9-8 penalty shootout triumph and a place in the Hero ISL final.

Bengaluru FC has made an incredible comeback and now finds itself on the verge of triumph as they compete for their second Hero ISL title on Saturday at the PJN Stadium in Fatorda.

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