Sunday, 24 June, 2018


ISL 2018: Ranko Popovic, Albert Roca mesmerised by Sunil Chhetri's hat-trick

Sahil Panwar ISL 2018: Ranko Popovic, Albert Roca mesmerised by Sunil Chhetri's hat-trick
Patty Aguilar | 12 March, 2018, 20:23

Chhetri, 33, cracked a treble (15th, 65th, 89th) to guide Bengaluru to the Indian Super League (ISL) final with a 3-1 win over FC Pune City in the second semi-final here.

The result means Bengaluru FC becomes the first team to qualify for the ISL final scheduled to be played on March 17 where they will play the victor of the second semi-final between Chennaiyin and Goa. They didn't seem far off as they took the game to the opposition but lacked the final touch that would have given them a precious away goal. Goa and Chennaiyin played out a 1-1 draw in their first leg. On Sunday, both clubs have to significantly improve from their last performance and should rely on their core strength to emerge victorious.

Playing the ISL final at their home, it is no doubt that Bengaluru will be heavy favourites for the title.

FC Pune City coach Ranko Popovic too couldn't hide his admiration for the Bengaluru skipper and suggested that Sunil Chhetri is the best player ever to play for India.

In the first leg, Roca's approach was to make his team sit back and defend.

Chhetri's second came in the second half as he drew a foul inside the box from Sarthak Golui, who first tackled him from behind and then pushed to the ground.

Bengaluru's defence was impressive in the first leg, so it's highly unlikely that Roca would change the set-up. They had a wonderful opportunity in the 30th minute as Emiliano Alfaro picked out Marcelinho's run into the box on the left. For Pune, not having their coach and master tactician Ranko Popovic could have affected their morale but Pune City players will walk onto the turf with new vigour and enthusiasm. Popovic was earlier suspended for his comments on referees but on Saturday, the All India Football Federation's (AIFF) disciplinary committee provisionally removed the ban.

Pune were getting frustrated as Bengaluru refused to take their foot off the gas.

It was Chhetri who broke the deadlock in the tense semi-final after starting and finishing a sweeping counter-attack in which he held off defenders to play in Udanta Singh down the right. Adil Khan and Sahil Panwar played key roles in some of Pune's victories this season and Popovic will expect the duo to maintain the consistency. Already on a booking, the 29-year-old was lucky to have not been sent off. He has been an exception as this season has now become infamous for goalkeeping blunders.

After the break, Pune showed urgency but nothing substantial came out of it. On the hand, Roca's team will look to start well.

Pune also showed their desperation to get into the match after conceding the goal, as they received three yellow cards including Diego Carlos, who indulged in the most disgraceful acts.

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