As the inaugural Hero Super Cup comes to its end, only 2 teams remain. In a battle of ISL vs I-League, Bengaluru FC (BFC), who beat Mohun Bagan in the semi-final, will face the latter’s biggest rivals, East Bengal who overcame FC Goa in the 1st semi-final.
The two sides have faced off against each other on 8 occasions, with East Bengal winning 5. But Bengaluru FC’s game has gone up since the last time the two met.
Bengaluru FC, widely regarded as the best football club in the country, were faced with disappointment when they lost the Indian Super League finals earlier this year.
East Bengal, who finished 4th in the I-League, will be looking to pick up their first piece of major silverware in 6 years. Their last trophy was the Federation Cup (now defunct) in 2012.
BFC has had an eventful route to the final. In the round of 16, they beat Gokhulam Kerala 2-1 after being 1-0 down. Udanta Singh scored the winner in the 2nd minute of stoppage time. In the quarterfinals, they faced NEROCA FC and won convincingly after Sunil Chhetri netted the tournament’s first hattrick to win 3-1. In the semi-finals against Mohun Bagan, Bengaluru found themselves in trouble after going down 1-0 and then losing their left-back Nishu Kumar to a red card in the 50th minute. The ISL runners-up rallied to win 4-2 on the back of a fantastic hattrick by Venezuelan striker Miku.
East Bengal had a much more defence-oriented route to the finals. They first beat Mumbai City FC 2-1 after coming from behind. In the last 8, they beat Aizawl FC in a cagey affair that ended in the 6th minute of stoppage time after Laldanmawia Ralte scored a penalty to win 1-0. In the semi-finals against FC Goa, Dudu Omagbemi scored the only goal of the game in the 78th minute to put East Bengal through to the finals.
Bengaluru FC comes into the game as the strong favourite as they have been in imperious form since the end of January, having only lost 1 game in their last 21, which includes 17 wins.
This is mainly due to their deadly front trio of Sunil Chhetri, Miku and Udanta Singh. Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, who is playing against former employers, has also been in good form for BFC between the sticks. In a pre-match press conference released by Bengaluru FC’s Twitter page, Gurpreet said, “To be honest, I haven't thought about this as a game against my former side. For me, this is a big final and another opportunity to win a title. I want to contribute to this and be at our best tomorrow.”
Chhetri and Miku have been having their own little competition to see who ends up as the club’s leading scorer for the season. For now, the Venezuelan is leading his captain by 1 goal. The two are also joint top scorers for the tournament along with Mohun Bagan’s Aser Pierrick Dipanda with 4 goals.
Coming into the game as underdogs, East Bengal’s weakness has been their inability to make their opportunities in front of goal count. This was seen in the semi-final against FC Goa. East Bengal missed a host of chances and were lucky that the opposition was not able to capitalise on East Bengal’s faulty finishing. Rest assured that they will not have the same luck in the finals when dealing with such a potent front 3.
East Bengal’s technical director Subash Bhowmick in an interview with Goal praised how BFC was able to capitalise on a loss of concentration from Mohun Bagan in the semi-final. “Mohun Bagan lost concentration for 10 minutes and drifted away from the match. Toni Dovale changed the colour of the match. Bengaluru FC are a professional outfit. If you lose concentration even for a minute, you will invite trouble.”
He went on to praise BFC striker Miku but claimed that FC Goa’s Ferran Corminas is better. “Miku is definitely a very good player but I think FC Goa's (Ferran) Corominas was more dangerous than Miku. So, if we can stop Coro, we will be able to stop Miku in the final.”
The finals will take place at the Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneshwar on Friday. Kick-off will be at 4 PM. Telecast by Star Sports.