Bengaluru FC in ISL final after win over Mumbai City FC in shootout thriller

India goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu emerged the hero as his crucial saves helped Bengaluru FC beat Mumbai City FC in penalty shootout to enter the Indian Super League (ISL) final here on Sunday.

Sandhu saved penalties at the start of the game and at the end of the shootout as Bengaluru FC won the tie-breaker after the semifinal was tied 2-2 on aggregate, following Mumbai City FC’s 2-1 result after extra time. Bengaluru FC had beaten League Shield winners Mumbai City FC 1-0 in the first leg of the semifinal in Mumbai on March 7.

After 16 penalties were scored, Sandhu saved Mehtab Singh’s shot before Sandesh Jhingan scored the winning spot-kick to give the Blues a 9-8 win in the shootout. Bengaluru FC will now face either ATK Mohun Bagan or Hyderabad FC in the ISL final on Saturday.

The home side started the game confidently, but the best opportunity fell to Mumbai City FC inside 10 minutes. Sandhu fouled Jorge Diaz in the box to give away a penalty, but managed to go the right way when Greg Stewart stepped up to take it.

Midway through the first half, the Islanders were put further behind in the fixture. From the left flank, Siva Narayanan floated a cross for Javi Hernandez, who managed to head it past Phurba Lachenpa to make it 2-0 on aggregate. That goal kicked the Islanders into next gear, and they clawed back quickly at the half-hour mark. Sandhu was called into action again as he saved Rowlin Borges’ effort at the near post. However, the rebound went straight to an unmarked Bipin Singh, who side-footed the ball home.

In the 66th minute, Mumbai City FC levelled the semi-final tie courtesy of Mehtab’s towering header from a corner. Three minutes later, Lachenpa got his fingertips on a Hernandez shot as the game headed into extra time with no other substantial chances for either team.

In the extra time, both teams had chances which they didn’t capitalise upon.

Diaz was picked out by Vikram Singh with a low cross but failed to keep it on target from close range. Towards the end of the first period, Roy Krishna’s header was kept out by Lachenpa, and Mourtada Fall almost kicked the rebound into the back of his own net but was saved by the post.

In the second period, Pablo Perez came close to capitalising on Lachenpa’s spill before he recovered to punch it away. At the end, Lachenpa rescued the visitors again when he kept Alan Costa’s header out as the game went to penalties and Bengaluru FC held their nerves for the win.

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