The EMS Stadium in Kozhikode witnessed the beginning of the Super Cup semi-finals as Simon Grayson and Aidy Boothroyd’s teams faced off against each other. Jamshedpur FC topped their group with three wins in as many matches while Bengaluru FC registered a win and two draws from their three games.
Bengaluru started the game against Jamshedpur with the same starting eleven that had played out a 1-1 draw against Kerala in their last Super Cup group stage game. Jamshedpur, on the other hand, went back to their strongest eleven after the rotations that Boothroyd made in the game against Gokulam Kerala.
Jamshedpur FC came really close to opening the scoring within three minutes but were denied by the brilliant Gurpreet Singh Sandhu. Jay Emmanuel-Thomas’ initial powerful shot from outside the box was saved by the extending Sandhu, but the danger was not cleared yet. Chukwu pounced on the rebound, but the custodian expertly saved the resulting tap-in with his foot. Javi Hernandez forced a mistake from Ricky Lallawmawma on the other end a few minutes later, but Krishna failed to make use of the resulting ball.
Jamshedpur’s Ritwick Das, a constant threat on the left flank, dribbled past a couple of Bengaluru players and created a scoring opportunity for Boris via a through ball cutting through the Bengaluru defence, but the latter could not get to the end of the ball. Bengaluru were rarely a threat in the first half, with the Red Miners dominating possession. Jamshedpur had another golden opportunity to open the scoring when Jay Emmanuel Thomas dribbled past the entire Bengaluru defence and managed to weave a pass to Boris on the far post, but he was denied by Gurpreet Singh Sandhu’s foot.
The Blues’ first real chance came through Udanta Singh when he cut in from the right flank and delivered a ball to Chhetri. However, a rushing TP Rehnesh managed to gather the ball before Chhetri could make any damage. Crivellaro was inches away from scoring when he almost managed to find the top corner from a free-kick, which came as Jhingan fouled Chukwu right outside the box.
Bengaluru were dealt with a major blow around the half-hour mark when Javi Hernandez injured himself during a counter-attack. He had to come off and was replaced with Jayesh Rane. Bengaluru had lost their main creator, and Grayson had to rethink their plans all over. The Red Miners’ pressing was particularly impressive, and that resulted in a goal-bound shot from Jay Thomas in the closing stages of the first half when Bhutia misplaced a pass right outside his own box. The shot, however, went wide.
Bhutia had another frail moment when he failed to clear a cross from the far-post cleanly and almost gifted the ball back to Ritwick. Bhutia was struggling against Ritwick, as he was yet again left behind by the forward a few minutes later as Jamshedpur continued piling on chances. The first half concluded in a 0-0 deadlock.
The opening minutes of the second-half saw a flurry of activity in the middle of the pitch, with both Bengaluru and Jamshedpur struggling to create any clear-cut chances. Boris had a chance to break through, but Jhingan’s strong tackle, which also earned him a yellow card, cut it short. Jamshedpur continued to push forward, with Crivellaro lofting a ball for Chukwu to head in, but Jhingan once again made a crucial challenge to keep the score level.
Simon Grayson decided to make two attacking substitutions, bringing on Pablo Perez and Sivasakthi for Udanta Singh and Rohit Kumar, respectively. This move paid off, as BFC began to control possession and create better chances. Soon after the substitutions, Sivasakthi and Jayesh Rane combined to score the opening goal of the match. Sivasakthi beat Renthlei on the right flank and sent a cross into the box, which deflected off Jitendra Singh and fell kindly to Rane, who scored with a powerful header past TP Rehnesh into the far post.
The Blues had a chance to extend their lead when Perez nodded the ball into the path of Roy Krishna, who found himself one-on-one with the goalkeeper, but Rehnesh made a crucial save to deny him. Jamshedpur needed a goal to get back into the game, and Boothroyd brought on Harry Sawyer for Jay Emmanuel-Thomas, but the BFC defense held strong and kept any threats at bay.
In the 83rd minute, Sivasakthi released Roy Krishna, who unleashed a powerful shot at Jamshedpur’s goal. Although Rehnesh saved the initial shot, Krishna got to the end of the rebound and with a header found Sunil Chhetri, who comfortably slotted the ball into the back of the net to extend Bengaluru’s lead to two goals. The Red Miners tried to mount a comeback, but they looked toothless in attack and failed to create any good opportunities. Sawyer had a late chance to reduce the deficit, but he hit the side netting, while Farukh’s shot deep into extra time went straight to Sandhu.
Gurpreet Singh Sandu was rightfully voted as the best player of the game, as his saves in the first half prevented his team from going two or three goals down. With this win, Bengaluru has now reached the finals in all three tournaments they have played this season, having won the Durand Cup earlier and then making it to the ISL Playoff Finals, where they lost to Mohun Bagan.
Bengaluru FC will now face either Northeast United FC or Odisha FC in the Super Cup final on Tuesday, providing them with yet another opportunity to add to their trophy cabinet.
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