ISL: Chhetri's hat-trick seals final spot for Bengaluru

Bengaluru FC skipper Sunil Chhetri scored a hat-trick to take his side past FC Pune City in the second leg of the ISL semifinal.

Sunil Chhetri slots in his third goal against FC Pune City in the second leg of the ISL semifinal.   -  ISL/SPORTZPICS

Cometh the hour, cometh the man. Like he has done several times before in his illustrious career, Sunil Chhetri proved his worth in a high-pressure knockout match. Faced with a must-win situation in the second leg of the ISL semifinal here on Sunday, Bengaluru FC (BFC) leaned heavily on Chhetri to deliver the goods, and the celebrated striker did not disappoint.


Chhetri delighted the 24,000-odd crowd with a hat-trick to give his side a 3-1 victory over FC Pune City, and a spot in the final. The 33-year-old shut out a fighting FC Pune City with a marvellous performance, with each goal showcasing a different skill.

The first displayed his game-awareness, as he held on to the ball outside the FC Pune City box, waiting for help to arrive. When the timing was just right, he laid it for a sprinting Udanta Singh on the flank. Udanta sent in a cross to Chhetri at the far-post, who rose high to head it towards the goal. A complete lack of communication
between centre-back Gurtej Singh and custodian Vishal Kaith allowed the ball to sneak in.


After the restart, the skipper underlined his class with a spectacular effort. A ‘panenka’ from the spot left Vishal sprawled on the ground, in no man’s land. There was no blaming inept defence for this one.

The visitor pulled one back in the 82nd minute, when Jonatan Lucca found the top-corner with a perfect free-kick. FC Pune City pushed hard to find the equaliser, but once again, Chhetri had a trick up his sleeve.

At the end of regulation time, a long ball sailed to Chhetri in the Pune half. The India international - not one to be affected by fatigue late in an encounter - carried the ball past defender Rohith Kumar with ease. The one-on-one with the goalkeeper proved to be a no-contest, with Chhetri slotting it in calmly with a precise side-footed effort.

BFC head coach Albert Roca showered praise on his celebrated captain. “There are no words to describe Chhetri. He has come good in an important game once again. He may be 33, but he showed that age does
not matter. When Pune City scored and made it 1-2, I was nervous. But Chhetri found the net and calmed me and everyone in the stadium," Roca said.

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