ISL 2018, Bengaluru FC vs FC Pune City: Sunil Chhetri books final with hat-trick involving a panenka

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Sunil Chhetri of Bengaluru FC celebrates with teammate Miku after scoring against FC Pune City during their Indian Super League semi-final second leg at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium on Sunday (Image: ISL Media)

Bengaluru, March 11: Weapons used in moderation are the most effective ones. Bengaluru FC captain Sunil Chhetri knows a thing or two about using tricks in his arsenal wisely. His panenka for example. The last time we saw him score with that spot-kick, BFC were desperate to take the lead against a gritty 4.25 (April 25) Sports Club of North Korea in the AFC Cup on a rainy evening in August 2017. But can he do it on a cold rainy night in Stoke? We may never know that but he certainly used the panenka to precision to seal Bengaluru FC's 3-1 aggregate win in the Indian Super League semi-final over FC Pune City and secure a spot in the ISL final for his team the following Saturday (March 17) at the same venue, the Sree Kanteerava Stadium.

Knockout kings Bengaluru

He scored from the spot in the 65th minute. Moments before, the Blues skippers beckoned striker Miku towards him for an early throw-in at the left flank, connected with the Venezuelan for a one-two and crept down the sideline. On his way there, he received a push from the back by substitute Sarthak Golui and seconds later, was figuring out whether he should use the panenka.

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It was a gamble. Although Bengaluru FC were a goal up at that stage, an equaliser - the away goal - was all Pune City needed to reach the final. But Chhetri had made up his mind. The witty panenka came as a surprise for FC Pune City custodian Vishal Kaith, who had already dived to his left.

The celebration involved a huddle among the BFC players and Miku consoling Kaith for what was a shot that would have floored the best of goalkeepers.

A tough evening but the hard work paid off for Bengaluru FC.

There were fast-paced exchanges in the early stages of the game with both teams going all out for the first goal. BFC did not get their goals easily.

In the third minute, Bengaluru FC almost stunned the hosts when Udanta Singh went free on the right and pumped in a pass to the centre to Sunil Chhetri, whose left-footed effort went wide. At the end other end, Gurpreet Singh Sandhu was called into action to glove away Diego Carlos' effort from the edge of the box after a chipped cross by Emiliano Alfaro.

As expected, Pune pushed hard for the away goal that would give them the edge in the tie. BFC, knowing very well that the Pune attackers would knock in their box, kept the cards close to their chests. The defence line was compact but the BFC forward line was waiting near the half-line for a pacey counter-attack involving the swift Udanta Singh, hard-working Sunil Chhetri and intelligent Miku.

A couple of such counters did not yield the expected results in the first 10 minutes but it showed that the Pune defence was close to breaking.

It eventually did in the 15th minute. Sunil Chhetri bamboozled around retracting defenders and paired up with Udanta Singh on the right. Udanta too faked around Sahil Panwar before chipping it across the centre with his left. Chhetri, now in the middle the box rose to head the ball to Miku ahead of him. Pune City goalkeeper Vishal Kaith, at the left post, rummaged to get to the ball and fell for the dummy by Miku, allowing the BFC skipper's attempted pass to roll into the net.

The panenka after the hour broke the FC Pune City players' confidence. Substitute Jonathan Lucca gave the visitors some hope when he struck a delightful free-kick goal to make it 2-1 in the 82nd minute.

Chhetri had other plans.

Kaith had earlier denied Chhetri a hat-trick but there was nothing he could do a minute before time. Chhetri was onside as he controlled the long-ball by Dimas Delgado, surged into the box and struck to the bottom-right even as the Pune defenders staggered to catch up to him.

This time, he jumped over the signboards and saluted the West Block Blues - the majority of the 25,313 spectators on Sunday.

There were four minutes of added time after that but the fans at the Kanteerava were already cancelling their Saturday plans - their side, the debutants in the ISL, will play against Chennaiyin FC or FC Goa in a week.

Let's see what Chhetri has in store for us then.


Danger man Chhetri

Danger man Chhetri

It took Bengaluru FC only 15 minutes to break the deadlock after a goalless draw in the first leg against FC Pune City. Udanta Singh provided the assist for Sunil Chhetri, who converted with a glancing header (Image: ISL Media)

Hat-trick man Chhetri

Hat-trick man Chhetri

After his three goals the semi-final second leg against FC Pune City, Sunil Chhetri now has 13 goals in the Indian Super League (Image: ISL Media)

Neutralising Marcelinho

Neutralising Marcelinho

FC Pune City striker Marcelinho (right) in a tussle with Erik Paartalu of Bengaluru FC. The Brazilian forward was expected to turn things around for Pune, but the Bengaluru defenders kept him in check. (Image: ISL Media)

Opening scoring

Sunil Chhetri expected Miku to take a touch but it rolled in instead.

Panenka expert

Sunil Chhetri of Bengaluru FC converted from the spot, giving Vishal Kaith of FC Pune City no chance.

Kicks for free

A powerful free-kick by Jonathan Lucca brought Pune City back in the game in the 82nd minute.

Lob, space and finish

Sunil Chhetri, one-on-one with the goalkeeper, provided a clean finish to seal the win for Bengaluru FC.


Result:

Bengaluru FC 3 (Sunil Chhetri 15, 65 pen, 89) bt FC Pune City 1 (Jonathan Lucca 82)

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    Story first published: Sunday, March 11, 2018, 22:21 [IST]
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