Bengaluru FC left it late, but ensured the job was done, as it beat NorthEast United FC 3-0 to enter its second successive Indian Super League final. NorthEast had won the first leg of the semifinal 2-1, but Monday’s result at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium meant that the home side would go through 4-2 on aggregate.
For long tracts of the match though, it appeared that BFC would be left to rue a raft of missed chances. Forward Miku could have had a hat-trick on any other day, fluffing three gilt-edged opportunities in the first half. Midway through the second, centre-back Juanan shot over from point-blank range.
But when Miku opened the scoring in the 72nd minute, with a fine flick with the outside of his left boot, Bengaluru had managed the do the bare minimum that was required to go ahead on away goals. The visitor then threw the kitchen sink, committing all of its men forward. All it did was to bring two more goals for Bengaluru and seal the tie.
Three minutes from time, Udanta Singh’s chip, after he had dashed across the length of the opponent's half, came off the post and fell to Dimas Delgado, who calmly slotted home. Then Sunil Chhetri went on a similar run, but finished the job himself.
Earlier, NorthEast took to the pitch without forward Bartholomew Ogbeche, scorer of 12 goals, and midfielder Rowllin Borges, both of whom couldn’t recover from hamstring injuries. Their absence reflected in NorthEast's play, as the side created little through the middle. The loss of forward Frederico Gallego to a leg injury minutes into the second half didn’t help either.
Juan Mascia, who led the line, possessed a fine touch, but had little pace to trouble the Bengaluru defence. He did have a chance as early as the eighth minute, but couldn’t beat Gurpreet Singh Sandhu at the near post.
Bengaluru, on its part, probed, but was seldom fluent. Miku’s first shy at goal came in the 22nd minute, but he headed Nishu Kumar’s fine cross from the left flank wide.
Three minutes later, he sent Udanta’s cut-back soaring over bar. Just after the half-hour mark, he did all the hard work, dodging three defenders after collecting the ball from Delgado in the midfield, only to shoot meekly at ‘keeper Pawan Kumar, a former Bengaluru player.
The host came close twice in the first five minutes after the break. First Xisco Hernandez forced Pawan to tip over from close range and then Nishu’s fierce drive from 30 yards drew an outstanding save. But not even his best efforts on the day could deny Bengaluru from emerging victorious.
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