Mumbai City FC bowed out of the ISL 2022-23 season after fighting a long and hard battle against Bengaluru FC at the Kanteerava in the second leg of the semifinal on Sunday.
The game kicked off with high intensity as both teams launched aggressive attacks with a free-flowing attitude and engaged in tough tackles. The first breakthrough came in the 22nd minute when the Bengaluru winger Sivasakthi Narayanan skillfully switched to his left foot on the left flank and whipped in a curling cross that found Javi Hernandez, who headed it comfortably into the bottom right corner of the net as Phurba Lachenpa’s dive fell short. Bengaluru had doubled their advantage, leading the aggregate score by 2-0 and 1-0 on the night.
Mumbai City FC responded within 8 minutes as Bipin Singh guided in a rebound that came off Gurpreet Singh Sandhu as he tried to keep the powerful shot of Rowlin Borges off the net. The rest of the first half was a thriller as Javi Hernandez kept the Mumbai goalkeeper on his toes. In the 41st minute, he had an opportunity but failed to convert the ball, which Sivasakthi had set up for him, as he was under pressure from Rahul Bheke. The second chance was a close call, a free-kick that went just over the top, a “fraction too high,” and hit the roof of the net.
The second half kicked off with the same level of energy as the first. Greg Stewart gained control of a loose ball with his left foot, cut in, and made a through pass that managed to make it’s way through a sea of Bengaluru players, eventually reaching Bipin Singh. Singh wasted no time and quickly took a shot from a tight angle, but unfortunately, the Bengaluru keeper was able to save it.
Mumbai City FC dominated possession throughout the match, and their persistence paid off in the 65th minute when center-back Mehtab Singh found the back of the net through a header, putting Mumbai in the lead. The game was levelled on aggregate as the score over the two legs became 2-2.
Regulation time was not enough to separate the two sides as the match went onto extra-time, and the fans witnessed a scintillating display of conviction as both the teams kept themselves in contention. The attacking players from both teams exhibited grit and posed a constant threat to the opposing goalkeeper, as evidenced by the statistics. With 23 shots taken by Bengaluru and 24 by Mumbai, and 9 shots on-target by Bengaluru and 8 by Mumbai, both teams were evenly poised in terms of their offensive capabilities.
Both the goalkeepers deservedly received praise from the fans and the commentator deemed their performance “superb” as they both made excellent saves to keep their hopes alive for the final in Goa.
Given the evenly-matched nature of the game, it was only fair that the game stretched to penalties. All of the kick takers displayed excellent accuracy, resulting in a sudden death situation in the shoot-out.
Mehtab, who had previously kept the East Coasters alive in the tie with his goal, was the ninth kicker. Unfortunately, Sandhu saved his shot, giving Bengaluru FC the opportunity to seal the deal. Now, the responsibility fell on the shoulders of Sandesh Jhingan, who had never before scored a goal in the ISL. He confidently placed the ball in the right side of the net, causing the entire stadium to erupt in celebration. The coaching staff stormed the field, while Jhingan went straight to celebrate with the fans. With a 9-8 victory on penalties, Bengaluru FC secured their place in the final.
We now wait to see who will be their opponent in the final on the 18th of March as the last semifinal is to be played tonight between ATK Mohun Bagan and Hyderabad FC.
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