ISL semifinals: The battle of the custodians

As FC Pune City prepares to take on Bengaluru FC in the first-leg of the semifinal, the focus is on goalkeepers Gurpreet Singh Sandhu and Vishal Kaith.

Gurpreet Singh Sandhu (centre) is quick to react to situations and with his huge frame, he can intimidate forwards.   -  ISL / SPORTZPICS

The presence of in-form goalkeepers on both ends, Bengaluru FC’s Gurpreet Singh Sandhu and Vishal Kaith for FC Pune City, may create trouble for the forwards to score in the Indian Super League (ISL) first-leg semifinal at the Balewadi stadium here on Wednesday.

With players like Miku, Udanta Singh and skipper Sunil Chhetri in its ranks, Bengaluru has the ability to dominate. In his debut season, Gurpreet leads the Golden Glove list (six clean sheets, 38 saves in 16 matches). Even Marcelinho, the opponent skipper, rates him as the best custodian in the tournament. Gurpreet is quick to react to situations and with his huge frame, he can intimidate forwards.

Read: Bengaluru set to host ISL final?

Miku earned ‘Hero of the Match’ award in two league encounters involving Bengaluru and Pune.

Pune earned a place among the four semifinalists after three seasons of underachievement. They flaunt players like Emiliano Alfaro, Marcelinho and Adil Khan — expert at sneaking the ball past defenders.

Kaith is smaller in built, but he is fast as well. He has saved many diving at full stretch.

The semifinal stage of Indian Super League will witness the introduction of ‘away goal’ rule.

The ‘away goal’ rule will come into effect at the end of normal playing time during the second leg. If the aggregate goal difference between the two teams is zero (0), then the team that scored more away goals would be declared the winner of the tie.

For the benefit of explanation, Pune City (home) beats Bengaluru FC (away) by 2-1 in the first leg and Bengaluru (home) beats Pune City (away) 3-2 in the second leg – the goal difference over two legs is zero (aggregate score of 4-4). In this case, Bengaluru qualifies for the final as it scored 2 away goals compared to Pune City, which scored 1 away goal.

If both teams have scored an equal number of goals over two legs of semifinal such that even the away goals scored are equal at the end of regulation period of second leg , the game will go into extra time. The away goal rule will not apply in the extra time and the team that scores more goals in the extra time will be declared the winners. If both teams score no goals/equal number of goals in extra time, the winner would be decided on penalties.

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“We need to express ourselves the way we have been throughout the season. We have done very well so far, and not going all the way will be disappointing. Nothing will be decided tomorrow, we need to play good in both games to make it to the final,” reasoned Popovic, Pune coach.

The two exciting sides, making a first-time appearance in the play-offs, will move to Kanteerva stadium in Bengaluru for the second leg on March 11, Sunday.

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