Sunil Chettri hat-trick downs FC Pune City, guides Bengaluru FC into ISL final

Sunil Chettri gave twice I-League champions Bengaluru FC the chance to claim the Indian Super League (ISL) title in their first season following the 3-1 semi-final second leg (aggregate 3-1) win over FC Pune City.

football Updated: Mar 11, 2018 23:41 IST
Sayan Ghosh
Sayan Ghosh
Hindustan Times, Bangalore
Sunil Chettri,Indian Super League,ISL
Sunil Chhetri’s hat-trick ensured a convincing 3-1 win for Bengaluru FC against FC Pune City in an entertaining second leg semi-final of this year’s Indian Super League (ISL) on Sunday. (ISL / SPORTZPICS)

Sunil Chhetri struck a hattrick in the season’s biggest game yet for Bengaluru FC to carry the debutants to a 3-1 victory over FC Pune City in the second leg semi-final of the Indian Super League (ISL) on Sunday and into the final clash. (HIGHLIGHTS)

The India striker’s cool finishes, including a Panenka to convert a penalty, his second goal, saw the twice I-League champions continue their surge in their first season in ISL. FC Pune City had held Bengaluru FC to a goalless draw in the first leg at home.

‘We will bring the voice, you bring the heart’ - the message was loud and clear from Bengaluru FC fans at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium before kick-off.

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The home supporters turned up in numbers and did not forget to cheer every time their side touched the ball. Albert Roca’s men also kept their part of the bargain as they showed great character to book their place in the final. They will face winners of the other semi-final between Chennaiyin FC-FC Goa.

Attacking football

It was a solid show by Bengaluru FC as they dominated the game with their attacking brand of football and skipper Sunil Chhetri led by example. The Indian football team captain was supported brilliantly by his teammates - Venezuelan striker Miku and young Manipuri footballer Udanta Singh - as he clinched the encounter for the twice I-League champions.

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Staring with a tentative 4-4-1-1 formation, Bengaluru FC depended heavily to their wingers while attacking and Udanta Singh didn’t disappoint. The 21-year-old was a live wire down the right flank and FC Pune City were caught off-guard by his raw pace. Udanta was able to beat his marker on a couple of occasions within the first ten minutes and it was his cross that provided the first goal.

He skipped past FC Pune City defender Sahil Panwar and found Sunil Chhetri with an inch-perfect cross, and the skipper’s looping header from close range eluded the goalkeeper and went in.

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Spurred by goal

The goal was a huge relief for the home side after failing to score in drawn first leg in Pune earlier this week. The team looked more confident while going forward, and although there were no more goals in the first half, went into the break as the better team. The trend continued in the second half as the hosts were better organised and Chhetri doubled the lead in the 64th minute with the cheeky penalty conversion.

While Bengaluru FC reaped rewards for attacking, Pune paid the price for their lack of finishing. Their strikers Marcelinho and Emiliano Alfaro struggled and though Jonathan Lucca scored for the visitors, it was just a consolation. Alfaro got two golden chances to equalise, but the Bengaluru FC defence was up to the task and it was the counter-attack from the second that provided Chhetri with the moment of the day.

The 33-year-old maestro latched on to a lob from Dimas Delgado and his deft touch sealed a deserved treble for him.

The victory means Bengaluru FC will be back at the same venue on March 17 for the final. And if Sunday’s performance is any indication, the home fans will surely be expecting another masterclass from Sunil Chhetri and Co.

First Published: Mar 11, 2018 22:43 IST