History-chasing Bengaluru FC need to break a few historical trends to win the final of the Indian Super League against Chennaiyin FC at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium in Bengaluru. The Blues have won a trophy every season since their inception four years ago and are aiming to make it five in five by winning the ISL title in their debut season on Saturday.
However, the odds are stacked against the two-time I-League champions. No teams who have topped the league standings have won the title. Chennaiyin finished first in the league table in 2014 but crashed out in the semi-finals. A year later, FC Goa topped the standings but lost to Chennaiyin in the finals while in 2016, Mumbai City FC were also knocked out in the last-four stage.
Another trend that Bengaluru need to buck is to become the first team to win the final they host. Goa and Kerala Blasters ended up on the losing side when they hosted the ISL final in 2015 and 2016 respectively.
Add to this the fact that Chennaiyin won the last time these two sides met in Bengaluru and we have a very intriguing title clash on our hands. The John Gregory-coached side won through a late Dhanpal Ganesh winner in December and carry a psychological edge into the final.
Ahead of the final, Gregory termed captain Sunil Chhetri and Miku as Bengaluru's most dangerous players and rightly so. The duo has scored 27 of Bengaluru's 38 goals this season. Chhetri is also coming into the finale on the back of a hat-trick against FC Pune City in the semi-final and will be raring to lift his first ISL title.
However, the Chennaiyin backline — consisting of Inigo Calderon, Mailson Alves, Henrique Sereno and Jerry Lalrinzuala — has been excellent this season conceding only two goals in their last five games. The back four and goalkeeper Karanjit Singh even managed to keep FC Goa’s 31-goal attacking pair of Ferran Corominas and Manuel Lanzarote at bay in the semi-final.
In Jeje Lalpekhlua, the 2015 champions have one of the best finishers in the game and despite going through some lean patches this season, Jeje has managed to find the back of the net nine times. Unlike rivals Bengaluru, Chennaiyin’s goals have been evenly spread out with the likes of Calderon, Dhanpal, Anirudh Thapa and Rene Mihelic chipping in with some crucial goals.
At the pre-match press conference, Gregory predicted both sides will play cautiously in the first half before going for the kill in the second before adding that the team which scores first will most likely end up winning on Saturday.
The duo have scored a bulk of their goals in the second half of matches — Albert Roca's side have scored 26 times in the second half of matches while 20 of Chennaiyin's 28 goals have come in the final 45. Both teams are yet to lose a match this season in which they have opened the scoring.
The performance of Bengaluru's Gurpreet Singh Sandhu and Chennaiyin's Karanjit in goal will be one of the key deciding factors in the final. The two best goalkeepers this season, both Gurpreet and Karanjit have seven cleansheets to their names with the Bengaluru custodian leading the race for the golden glove with a far superior minute-per-goal-conceded ratio.
With some of the league's best attacking talent on display in the final, it may well be that the goalkeepers will decide the fate of the final.
Updated Date: Mar 17, 2018 09:30 AM