Bengaluru FC are one positive result away from the Indian Super League final as they gear up to host League Shield Winners Mumbai City FC in the second leg of their semifinal at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium on Sunday. Sunil Chhetri scored the only goal of the match in the first leg in Mumbai, and The Blues only need to avoid defeat against the Islanders to confirm a shot at the title.
The narrow win against Mumbai City last Tuesday saw Bengaluru FC extend their winning streak in the ISL to ten games, and was also their second consecutive win against Mumbai City.
The back three of Aleksandar Jovanovic, Sandesh Jhingan, and Bruno Ramires were robust in defence during the first leg to shut out the Islanders’ record-breaking attacking line.
Suresh Wangjam’s work rate was at its peak as he made crucial tackles and interceptions, while Roshan Naorem was menacing on the left flank, before assisting Chhetri’s winning goal from a corner.
Head coach Simon Grayson was pleased with his side’s confident performance in Mumbai and will likely field an unchanged XI in the second leg that will look to stifle their opponents’ free-flowing style.
“We had to ensure we remain in the game for the second leg, which is what we have done. We have given ourselves an advantage against a good team. Our game plan will not change too much,” said Grayson. “We respect Mumbai because they have scored 54 goals this season. They have goals in them, but we have a lot of belief and can keep clean sheets and score goals ourselves”, he added.
On the verge of achieving an unbeaten league stage last month, Mumbai City’s run was brought to an end by Bengaluru FC. Since then, the Islanders have lost three consecutive games, scoring only once in that period.
In the first leg, head coach Des Buckingham fielded his strongest lineup after concluding the league stage with a second-string side. However, despite attempting more than 20 shots in the game, Mumbai City didn’t cause too much trouble.
Throughout the season, Mumbai City have tormented opponents from the wide areas, but both Bipin Singh and Lallianzuala Chhangte were kept relatively quiet in the first leg. The Islanders could potentially look to their stalwarts in the middle – Greg Stewart, Jorge Pereyra Diaz and Ahmed Jahouh – to try and unsettle Bengaluru FC at the back this time around.
“Until we conceded from the set piece, we had control of the game. We created chances but failed to hit the target. We have a group of players who know exactly what we need to do,” said Buckingham. “The beauty of knockout football is that it gives you another chance to do what you want. We are ready, and so are the players,” he added.
In 13 ISL encounters, both sides have won six games each, and only one encounter has ended in a draw. The Islanders will need to add a seventh win to their kitty if they want a shot at winning the ISL title and doing the league double.