BFC the form team going into the finalMarch 17, 2018
In Indian football no one perhaps possesses the midas touch that Bengaluru FC (BFC) does. Four seasons ago, it won the I-League title on debut. Then it became the first-ever Indian club to reach the AFC Cup final.
On Saturday, when it takes on Chennaiyin FC in the Indian Super League (ISL) final here, it has the chance to add another feather to its cap — of winning the ISL trophy in its first attempt.
The outfit’s recent form gives enough reason for optimism. BFC was by far the best team in the league, finishing eight points clear of second-placed Chennaiyin, scoring 35 goals — second highest after FC Goa — and conceding just 16, the least by any team. Going into the final it is unbeaten in 15 games across competitions.
Of the 35 goals, 27 may have come from just two players in Venuzuelan striker Miku (14) and Sunil Chhetri (13), but the latter attested that his side was much more that.
“It might be a cliche, but we are all about the team,” said Chhetri. “Against Pune in the semifinal you won’t believe what we celebrated the most — the outstanding save by Gurpreet [Singh Sandhu]. If he had conceded that early away goal, things would have become very difficult.”
However for Chennaiyin, the challenge is relatively familiar. The team it defeated in the semifinal, FC Goa, too had two prolific scorers in Ferran Corominas (18) and Manuel Lanzarote (13). And Goa’s free-flowing, possession-heavy football is close to BFC’s.
Chennaiyin’s play may not be about aesthetics but it does know how to stifle an opposition and get the job done. The number of late goals scored — 11 of its 24 have come after the 80th minute — is a pointer to its ability to outlast opponents.
Striker Jeje Lalpekhlua’s return to form following a barren seven-game run is another shot in the arm. So is the fact that the 2015 ISL champion will have a full squad to choose from as against BFC which will miss defender Subashish Bose (suspended) and Harmanjhot Khabra (injured).
“They are a very physical team,” BFC midfielder Erik Paartalu said. “They like to get under your skin quite a lot and they have quality players and are extremely dangerous on the transitions. Having played finals before, I can tell you that things don’t always go how you expect them to. We need to react well to whatever happens.”
High-stake cup finals such as these have a tendency to turn into cautious affairs with a premium placed on avoiding mistakes. But Chennaiyin coach John Gregory believed it may not be so this time around.
“Probably the first half may not be very dramatic,” he said. “But it’s a game where if you score first, the opponent has a mountain to climb. So things are going to be a bit more attack-minded.”