Gurpreet’s goalkeeping heroics help Bengaluru advance into the ISL final
Bengaluru qualified for the 2022-23 Indian Super League final with a 9-8 penalty win over Mumbai City. The second leg of the semi-final ended 1-2 after extra time, where Bipin Singh and Mehtab Singh scored for the Islanders, while the Blues’ goal was scored by Javi Hernandez.
Given that his team came into this match on the back of a winning streak, Bengaluru head coach Simon Grayson did not make any changes to the starting XI and rolled the same set of players who started in the 1-0 first-leg win.
On the other hand, Mumbai City head coach Des Buckingham made one change to the starting XI that went down in the first leg. Apuia did not have the best of outings in that fixture, and in his place, the more experienced Rowllin Borges was handed a start.
The Islanders had a golden chance of taking the lead very early, as the Blues conceded a penalty in the 8th minute. Lallianzuala Chhangte tried to find Bipin Singh with a pass, whereas, in an attempt to intercept it, central defender Aleksandar Jovanovic ended up pushing the ball towards the path of a lurking Jorge Pereyra Diaz.
Goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu rushed out of his line to get to the ball, but he got the Argentine striker instead and conceded a penalty. Thankfully for the hosts, the error did not matter as Greg Stewart’s penalty was saved by Gurpreet. The Scotsman had another opportunity in the 18th minute, but he lacked accuracy again.
These missed chances came back to haunt Mumbai City as in the 22nd minute of the match, Bengaluru broke the deadlock with their first major attack. After receiving a lobbed pass from Roy Krishna, Sivasakthi Narayanan launched a precise cross which was headed home by Hernandez.
The lead did not last long though, as Buckingham’s team restored parity right on the half-hour mark. Diaz chested down a Rahul Bheke cross for Borges, and while his shot was spectacularly saved by Gurpreet, the rebound was tucked in by Bipin.
Having seen their aggregate advantage getting reduced, Bengaluru once again went into attacking mode and had two good chances in the first half itself. Hernandez had his first shot saved by Phurba Lachenpa, while his second shot was not on target.
Like the first half, Mumbai City started the second half brightly and could have taken the lead just a few seconds after the resumption. Stewart found Bipin with a precise pass, but the latter’s shot was saved by an alert Gurpreet.
Bengaluru’s first chance of the second half arrived in the 55th minute when Hernandez curled in a great corner. While Ahmed Jahouh did well to head it away, the rebound fell for Roshan Naorem whose shot did not miss the target by a lot.
Grayson’s team had yet another amazing opportunity just two minutes later when Sivasakthi beat Jahouh with his nifty footwork before finding Hernandez in the box. However, the Spaniard’s shot was saved by Phurba.
This time, the Blues had to pay the price of being wasteful as the Islanders scored their second goal in the 66th minute. Having missed a penalty earlier, Stewart launched a beautiful corner which was met by Mehtab’s header that found the back of the net.
Bengaluru almost managed to equalize just a few minutes later when Roshan found Hernandez with a cross before the Spanish attacker launched a shot. But he was denied a brace by a flying Phurba, who made a fantastic save once again.
The next few minutes did not produce any big chances, but the Islanders had a gilt-edged goal just before the end of normal time. After receiving a pass from Stewart, Vikram Pratap Singh found Bheke with a cross but the full-back’s header was not on target.
The chances kept on pouring for Buckingham’s men and they surely should have taken the aggregate lead in the 99th minute. Vikram was instrumental again as he made a darting run before finding Diaz with a superb pass, but the Argentine simply did not have his scoring boots on today.
Three minutes later, it was the Blues’ turn to squander a chance. Pablo Perez’s cross was met by Krishna, but his header was saved by Lachenpa. The rebound caught Mourtada Fall by surprise, but thankfully, the ball did not roll back into the goal.
The game then went into penalties, with each team ending up with 9 shots as the takers showed unreal composure in the face of intense pressure. Ultimately, all of Bengaluru’s nine takers scored, while Mumbai City’s centre-back, Mehtab had his shot saved by Gurpreet.
With this win, Bengaluru has qualified for their third final in ISL, where they will take on the winner of the second semi-final between ATK Mohun Bagan and Hyderabad. The match will be played in Goa’s Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium on Saturday.