Bengaluru FC’s remarkable rise from the ruins got much storied, but did not have its fitting end as the Blues endured a heartbreaking defeat by ATK Mohun Bagan in the penalty shootout for the Mariners to win the Hero Indian Super League title for the first time.
Earlier, in regular time, a brace of penalties by Dimitri Petrators were neutralized by strikes from the penalty spot by Sunil Chhetri, just before half-time and Roy Krishna in the 78th minute. But the Blues ultimately stumbled in the shootout, with Bruno Ramires and Pablo Perez missing from the spot.
Ahead of the game, Blues Head Coach Simon Grayson named an unchanged squad with Roy Krishna and Sivasakthi leading the line for Bengaluru and Gurpreet Singh Sandhu captaining the side. For the Mariners, Ashique Kuruniyan was named in the starting eleven after doubts over his fitness.
The Englishman, however, was forced to make his first change as early as the 4th minute after young striker Sivasakthi had to be stretchered off, after suffering a blow to the nose following an aerial tussle with Ashique. The youngster was replaced by Sunil Chhetri.
The Blues had most of the chances in the opening exchanges of the game but it was ATK Mohun Bagan that took the lead in the 14th minute through a penalty after Roy Krishna was adjudged by referee Harish Kundu to have handled the ball in the box. Dimitri Petratos stepped up and scored past Gurpreet’s outstretched arm, despite the Blues ’keeper flinging himself to the correct side.
Bengaluru came close to equalizing on plenty of occasions, including a free kick from Javi Hernandez which was parried away by Vishal Kaith for corner. A few seconds later, a cross floated in by Krishna was headed narrowly wide by Sandesh Jhingan.
The Blues then had a legitimate claim for a penalty ignored by Kundu in the 34th minute, after a challenge by Pritam Kotal on Krishna. Replays showed clear contact between the players. Upset by the call, the Bengaluru players lost their composure, picking up three yellow cards within a span of minutes.
Eventually, Grayson’s side did get a penalty call their way when Subhashish Bose smashed into Krishna’s knee following an attempted clearance by the ATK Mohun Bagan defender. Chhetri stepped up and sent Kaith the wrong way to get the Blues back on level terms with the last kick of the first half.
Ahead of the restart, both teams made changes, with Bengaluru bringing on Pablo Perez to replace Aleksandar Jovanovic, while Juan Ferrando sent Lalrinliana Hnamte on for Glan Martins.
Both teams started at a slower pace compared to the first half, with the chances and attempts coming few and far between. In a bid to add more firepower to his attack, Ferrando brought on Liston Colaco in place of Ashique Kuruniyan.
A few minutes after coming on, Liston was in the thick of the action when he received the ball after Javi was dispossessed by Hnamte, with the Spaniard trying to wriggle his way through one too many ATK MB players. The winger’s shot from distance was saved by Gurpreet before Petratos dragged his shot wide on the follow-up, although by then the assistant’s flag was up for offside.
In a second half where both teams looked to buckle down and deny the opposition any opening, it was Krishna who put the Blues into the lead in the 80th minute, heading home from a flicked header by Jhingan, following a corner by Naorem Roshan Singh. The lead would not last for long though, as ATK MB won another penalty in the 85th minute, after Pablo Perez brought Kiyan Nassiri down in the box. It was Petratos, once again, who converted from the spot to bring Ferrando’s men back in the game.
Ultimately, the two teams could not be separated in 90 minutes of action-packed football, as the game moved into extra time, with the score tied at 2-2.
Into the second period of extra time, Krishna had a great chance to help the Blues take the lead when he was put through on goal by Pablo Perez, but the Fijian saw his effort fly narrowly over the crossbar.
A few minutes later, Manvir Singh found himself at the end of an accurate cross by Petratos, but the winger could only head his effort wide off target. With minutes remaining in the encounter, Grayson looked to make a final roll of the dice as the duo of Alan Costa and Parag Shrivas were brought on in place of Rohit and Roshan.
A nip-and-tuck encounter could not provide a winner within 120 minutes of football as both teams had to contend with penalties to declare a champion.
The Blues were the ones to start the shootout and after both sides scored their opening two strikes, Kaith dived the right way to deny Ramires’ spot-kick. ATK MB scored all four of their free-kicks and Pablo put the final strike over the bar which clinched victory for the Ferrando’s men, as they became Indian Super League winners for the first time.
Bengaluru FC Media Release