The Blues will now face FC Goa or Mumbai City in the title-deciding clash.
Three late second half goals helped Bengaluru qualify for the final of the Indian Super League for the second season in a row, at the expense of an injury-ridden NorthEast United. The Highlanders, who were without Rowlin Borges and Bartholomew Ogbeche lost stand-in captain Robert Lalthlamuana before the match started and key playmaker Federico Gallego had to be stretchered off early in the second half.
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Watch: Bengaluru 3-0 NorthEast United, Goals and Highlights
A stellar goal from Miku gave Bengaluru the advantage, before Dimas Delgado and Sunil Chhetri gave the breathing space through counter-attacking clinics. The home team will set sail for Mumbai, where they will face either FC Goa or Mumbai City, with the former poised to take the second final’s spot after a 1-5 win in Mumbai.
Eelco Schattorie knew that the result of the semi-final was a tiny blemish on an otherwise amazing season for the Highlanders. “Our season is a memorable one. We only lost four times this whole season. That means we are doing something right. There are a lot of games in which we played our strongest XI. We outplayed many teams and played some good football,” the tactician explained
He also understood what went wrong in the game. With key players out, a tweak in a practised system could cause major deviations in playing style. “Today’s game, we lost two key players. The team is all about balance.
Ogbeche goes out and up front we started with Juan (Mascia), who is a player who drops into the midfield and has the ball a lot. Next, we lost Borges, who is known to make forward runs from midfield and he was replaced by Fanai, who is also a player who likes to have the ball a lot. We had too many players, going for the ball, which makes it defensively easier for Bengaluru,” the former East Bengal coach explained.
The winning coach was glad with his team’s performance against a resolute Northeast side. “I think we did the job from the first minute. We were feeling that the game will be like this. We were putting pressure with the ball and we were trying to score because we knew they were going to defend the result. It was a typical second leg semi-final. They want to punish you with counters (counter-attacks) and you have to score,” Carles stated.
He also stressed on the importance of being ready for crucial moments during the game, especially in the final, using an example from the tie to illustrate the point. “All the finals are special. There is a lot of tension in the atmosphere, a lot of competitiveness. We try to be as good as we can both physically and mentally.
In the end, football is about moments in the game. So, you make a plan to suit them. Today, it worked very well. We were working on the training for opportunities to play Sunil and Miku as strikers in a 3-5-2 and putting in Luisma instead of Juanan, because he can be offensive with the ball. Similarly, we are going to try to make the best plan to be competitive against Goa,” the Spaniard reflected.
He was also full of praise for the immense patience shown by his side to break down NorthEast’s defence. “We knew that 1-0 in 90 minutes was enough for us. So, we don’t have to be crazy or have to work for the ball. That was the plan.
We knew that we were better than them because they have a lot of injuries. We had the privilege to make the rotations and we played fresh and I was telling the players that we could go to extra-time and they have to be ready for a long game,” the Bengaluru manager concluded.
For NorthEast, the Super Cup awaits while Bengaluru head to Mumbai to take part in their second successive final on Sunday.