Well, the end has arrived and been but what a fantastic way to end the 2017-18 season of the ISL. Jake has given me the honour of writing the final report as he took my, send him to Bangladesh, joke a little too seriously and actually asked Chris for a transfer. Enough of that muppet and back onto the final, it was a fantastic game between the two best teams in the ISL, Bengaluru and Chennaiyin, Before I get to the action, I must say I don’t agree with this format, especially with how Bengaluru finished eight points ahead at the end of the regular season, they should be the champions but they aren’t and that’s incredibly harsh on them. I also hate John Gregory but that’s just personal. Right. Let’s get straight to the action, starting with the first half.
The First Half…
Bengaluru headed into the game as favourites, however, Chennaiyin were dark horses for many people. Bengaluru looked to silence their critics as they went straight at Chennaiyin and it paid off within nine minutes. Udanta found himself down the wing, he delivered a deflected cross for Chhetri who finished it off with a fantastic diving header from around eight yards out. What a start from Bengaluru and this goal woke Chennaiyin up, forcing them to play football. Surprisingly, Chennaiyin were fantastic at playing attacking football and they equalised on seventeen minutes. A long-range shot was deflected wide for a corner, Nelson delivered the ball in and Mailson rose like a salmon, heading the ball in off the post. Bengaluru were rocked by this and they seemed very nervous. Chennaiyin had put them on the back foot and Bengaluru weren’t used to this.
It seemed Bengaluru were going to regain the lead soon after as they had a ferocious volley cleared off the line by Sereno who headed it away. It was one of the best clearances I have ever seen and it took some nerve to stick his head on a volley like that, fair play to the bloke. Both teams were pushing on from this moment and Chennaiyin were handed a corner from another deflected, long-range shot. Nelson delivered the ball in and Mailson was the first one on the end of it, smashing it home with his head, pretty much identical to his first. Chennaiyin found themselves in a 2-1 lead over Bengaluru and were looking the more comfortable of the sides.
Unfortunately, the first half ended after the goal and fans had to sit through a long fifteen minutes for the second half. Chennaiyin had impressed through the second half and looked in full control of the game. Bengaluru still looked a threat, however, they seemed nervous and weren’t playing well at all, compared to some of the other performances over the past weeks.
The Second Half…
Bengaluru started the second half exactly the same as they did the first and went right at them. Chennaiyin were on the ropes and thought they had conceded early on when Bengaluru had found the back of the net. However, it was rightly ruled out for offside and that summed up Bengaluru’s luck in this game. With Bengaluru pushing for an equaliser, it meant they were open at the back. Chennaiyin took advantage of this and scored their third of the game when Augusto curled on in the bottom corner, from just outside the box, on sixty-seven minutes. When watching this back I am starting to question the goalkeeping, he doesn’t seem to dive at full extent to save it. However, it went in and to be fair to Augusto, he did well to find the bottom corner.
This goal fired Bengaluru up even more, as they had to find two goals in the last twenty minutes to take the tie to extra time. Chhetri had the first chance to get them back in the game with a free kick from about twenty yards out. However, the ball was deflected at the last second and took the ball over, if it wasn’t deflected I think it was finding the top corner. From the resulting corner, Chhetri hammered a header at goal but Chennaiyin’s keeper Karanjit Singh produced a fantastic save.
Chennaiyin’s defence was called into action again as they had to clear a cross off the line as it managed to go over Singh and was heading in at the back post. Chhetri, who was having the game of his life and giving everything he had to get his side back into it, probably missed the best chance of the game. Bengaluru had the ball down the wing, there was a scramble in the box, with the ball rolling to Chhetri. He smashed the five-yard shot at an open goal about ten miles over the bar and he just flopped to the floor.
Bengaluru carried on pushing for a goal but time wasn’t on their side. Chhetri and Co had a few half chances but they all came to nothing. Bengaluru managed to find the net one last time on ninety-two minutes with a fantastic goal and my goal of the game. Udanta made a fantastic run down the wind and delivered the best cross I have seen in a while. It landed perfectly on Miku’s head who hammered the ball past Singh and the game went into a nervy last two minutes, with Chennaiyin leading 3-2.
However, Bengaluru had run out of time and the game ended with Chennaiyin winning 3-2. Celebrations broke out for Chennaiyin and John Gregory, whilst Bengaluru players were distraught, especially Chhetri who fell onto the floor and burst into tears, and I must admit I really felt for Bengaluru and Chhetri. They had been the best side in the ISL for the majority of the season and to lose out in a pointless playoff format was extremely harsh and something that honestly lets the league down.
I don’t mean to take anything away from Chennaiyin as they did play well and they stuck to their game plan. I just wish they didn’t play the way they play, it’s quite boring to watch and it’s quite annoying as when they did play attacking football, they played incredibly well. With their squad as well, they have a chance of defending the title next season. I think people need to enlighten themselves to two players in the Chennaiyin squad. One of these is Dhanapal Ganesh, he has been fantastic in that midfield and has done the dirty stuff fantastically, much to the ignorance of many. Another is Gregory Nelson, he has carried his side through the playoffs, he commanded both legs against Goa and performed brilliantly in this game.
I really do feel sorry for Bengaluru, it’s such a harsh and horrible way to lose out on the league title, especially with how they dominated the league throughout the regular season. Chhetri is an absolute legend of Indian football and I actually would compare him to Messi, in terms of what he has done for football in the country he is from and plays in. They still have the Super Cup to look forward to and I would still say they are favourites for that. I can see them getting to the knockout stages in the AFC Cup and who knows from there on. One thing for certain, they have a very bright future ahead of them and I can’t wait to see where they end up.
I think I’ll leave my usual finishing line out of this one as it doesn’t seem to fit the piece. I must start by saying congratulations to Chennaiyin, their fans, their players, their manager and all that are involved with the club, they have played fantastically this season. Commiserations to Bengaluru, like I said before, it was extremely harsh on them and they deserved the title. Hopefully, this doesn’t affect them for too long and they bounce back in the AFC Cup and Super Cup, which you’ll be able to follow right here with yours truly. Lastly, I would like to thank every reader this season, the past few months have been mayhem but thoroughly enjoyable and we couldn’t do it without you all. Onwards and upwards for next season!