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Simon Grayson: We’ve got to the final, now we want to win it

Published at :March 13, 2023 at 7:11 AM
Modified at :December 13, 2023 at 1:01 PM
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(Courtesy : ISL Media)

Sathvik Bharadwaj

The Blues triumphed over the Islanders in a nerve-wracking penalty shootout.

Bengaluru FC overcame a strong fight from Mumbai City to qualify for the ISL 2022-23 final. Entering the fixture with a 1-0 lead from the away leg, BFC started strong before Gurpreet Singh Sandhu made amends for conceding a penalty with a fine save off Greg Stewart's spot-kick. Javi Hernandez's header gave Bengaluru an aggregate two-goal lead, while Bipin halved the deficit with a goal at the half-hour mark.

Mehtab Singh's header from Greg Stewart's corner brought Mumbai level, but the Blues hung on till the end of extra time and the tie went to penalties. While the first seven takers from both teams managed to find the back of the net, it was Mehtab who turned villain, his take being saved by Gurpreet and Sandesh Jhingan's successful conversion handing the Blues the win in front of a joyous home crowd. Simon Grayson attended the post-match press conference. Here is what he had to say

Thoughts on the match

Following a hard-fought win in which the players gave everything in their capacity, Simon Grayson admitted that it took a lot of mental strength for the comeback and dissected the match, "Delighted, pleased for the players who gave everything tonight. The supporters who have not had nights like these for a very long time. We put them through the mill with penalties. So proud of the club. To achieve what we’ve achieved from where we took a lot of mental strength, spirit and we had that amongst everybody connected with the club. We’ve now got to go to Goa and get the job done."

"The first 7-8 minutes we started really well, and then the penalty could have rocked us. But we made sure to stay mentally strong. Overall it was a good game with both teams trying to win it. Keepers made some good saves and obviously came down to penalties where somebody is going to be a hero and somebody a villain. We came out on the right side. I don’t watch penalties so didn’t get to see the shootout.
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"The penalty save gave us all a lift. We did loads of penalties after training, even messing around. He’s a big man, Gurpreet. The save from Greg Stewart was crucial. If we had conceded early, it might have knocked us. Got a great goal from Javi and disappointed to have conceded twice, but that is just me being critical as a coach."

Change to a back 4

Mumbai drew level through Mehtab's goal, and Bengaluru FC were finding it challenging to string meaningful attacks together. To combat this, Grayson made a couple of attacking substitutions and switched to a back four, "To go and win the game. I thought the game would open up, there would be more space to play and fresh legs would certainly help us.

"I changed the system to bring in freshness and impetus. It’s hard to fit in players like Pablo in a 3-5-2. We had to give our best against a very strong Mumbai team with some talented players. Players are comfortable in a back four, we’ve executed it in matches and the players are adaptable and versatile. Fortunately, it paid off.

"We’ve got to the final, now we want to win it. We recovered well from the game In Mumbai, with the travelling and effort we did in the last game, recovery is very important."

Siva's impressive run continues

Bengaluru FC's find of the season Sivasakthi had a good game, providing the assist for Javi's header in the 22nd minute. Simon Grayson admitted that he had to make a late call but Siva's performance warranted a start, "I wasn’t sure which was I was going to go, I was leaning towards starting Sunil, with his experience and know-how of games. But I also felt that Siva’s pace might help us in the first half of the game. Got a great assist and warranted a start. It is fantastic for me to see the strength and depth we’ve got."

Reactions to the penalties and the celebrations

Simon Grayson admitted that the only way he was able to keep track of the penalty shootout was by listening to the crowd. BFC did not even have a set order after five takers.

"I didn’t watch the penalties, only followed the crowd’s cheering. We only wrote five names and after that, it was not a set order. You’ve got to want to take it. Delighted Sandesh Jhingan held his bottle and gave a result we and the fans deserved."




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