Well, this it folks, this is the end, the playoff final has arrived and we are in for one hell of a treat! With the playoff semi-finals finishing, we now have our final two contenders. Who are they, you ask. Well, the two teams are Bengaluru, surprise, surprise, and Chennaiyin, that’s actually a little surprising. Both teams have come through a tough journey and now it all goes down to one final game. Who will come out on top? Well, read on to see all the stats and my prediction for the game, although I shouldn’t be trusted.
Starting with the hosts, Bengaluru, who managed to get a top spot finish after the eighteen-game season. With them being the best team after eighteen games, they, obviously, managed to score a fair few goals along the way, with the exact total being thirty-five goals. Bengaluru had the best defensive record in the league, conceding a minimal amount of sixteen goals over eighteen games. However, the most incredible stat that Bengaluru currently holds, is their unbeaten streak which is now at fifteen games across all competitions. Astonishingly, their last loss came at the hands of Delhi back in early January. Surely, they are favourites heading into the game?
Now onto the visitors, quite literally as the final is being played at Bengaluru’s stadium, Chennaiyin. Chennaiyin finished in 2nd place, so theoretically Bengaluru and Chennaiyin are the two best sides in the league. With their style of play being quite defensive, they didn’t score a huge amount of goals for a team who finished 2nd, with their season total coming to twenty-four goals. However, with them playing defensively, they had the third-best defence in the league, as they only conceded nineteen goals. John Gregory’s side also have an unbeaten streak going, with theirs being smaller than Bengaluru’s but it’s still seven games without a loss. Can they be the team to find break Bengaluru’s unbeaten streak, or will they just be number sixteen?
I know the final is played over one game but the best way to get an understanding of the two sides is to look over their two games in the league. Their first meeting was back in November 2017, when Bengaluru were the hosts. Chennaiyin won that game 2-1, with Jeje giving them the lead in the first five minutes. We then had to wait for the final five minutes for another goal but it was definitely worth the wait as Sunil Chhetri equalised on eighty-five minutes. However, Chennaiyin weren’t leaving with a single point and Dhanapal Ganesh scored on eighty-eight minutes, securing the three points for his team.
Bengaluru would have to wait until January of this year to get their revenge and it was definitely worth the wait. Boithang Haokip gave Bengaluru the lead two minutes in, however, Francis Fernandes equalised on thirty-three minutes. Miku scored on sixty-three minutes to put Bengaluru 2-1 up and Chennaiyin thought they were going to get back in the game when they had a penalty on seventy-six minutes. However, Bengaluru keeper Gurpreet Singh had other ideas and saved the penalty. Sunil Chhetri put the final nail in Chennaiyin’s coffin as he scored Bengaluru’s third on ninety-four minutes. Funnily enough, this defeat was Chennaiyin’s defeat as after this their unbeaten streak started.
Journey To The Final…
New addition alert! I thought I’d treat you lot to a little more content and quickly describe how both teams got to the final. Don’t worry this isn’t a month by month review of their season, it’s just a quick look over their playoff semi-final games. Let’s start with Bengaluru.
Bengaluru were the first to qualify for the final as they beat Pune 3-1 over two legs. The first of the two legs was an atrocious game. Neither sides looked really bothered and they both looked quite cautious of each other. However, the second leg saved the semi-final. The game, obviously, ended up 3-1 with Sunil Chhetri getting a hattrick, whilst Pune scored a consolation goal through Lucca. Bengaluru didn’t impress in the first leg but they definitely reminded everyone of their skill with the second leg performance.
Chennaiyin qualified for the final after beating Goa 4-1 over two legs. Similar to the Bengaluru Pune tie, the first leg was awful but at least it had goals, with the game ending 1-1 and Chennaiyin getting that all-important away goal. Everyone was expecting Goa to show their attacking prowess in the second leg, however, Chennaiyin shocked everyone and smashed Goa 3-0, with Jeje getting two goals and Ganesh getting the other. Chennaiyin somehow found a way to silence the pairing of Coro and Lanzarote and still score goals, now that’s impressive and they’ll be hoping to do the same with Chhetri and Miku.
With this being the final, I can’t pick a single player from the two sides and say they will affect the game the most. Both teams have superstars in their squads and it would be unfair to single one out. With that being said, I am going to just simply give you two or three players from each team that will be the big influencers.
Starting with Chennaiyin, they have one of the most underrated players in the league this season. To be fair, I was only aware of his impact on games when I was researching for my end of season awards piece. I am talking about Dhanapal Ganesh, he is a fantastic box-to-box midfielder and his antics go unnoticed in games. His antics go unnoticed because of Jeje, who is a fantastic striker who can easily find the back of the net. One last player from Chennaiyin, who deserves a mention, is Gregory Nelson. He commanded that second leg against Pune and was simply fantastic, assisting the first two goals of the game.
Now onto Bengaluru. With them being favourites for the title for a while now, it’s obvious they have superstars in their squad. Their defence has been fantastic this season and that is down to the three-way partnership of Rahul Bheke, John Johnson, and Juanan. Moving further up the pitch and it’s clear to see they have the second-best partnership in the league with Sunil Chhetri and Miku. Chhetri proved how much of a legend he is in that second leg with his hattrick and Miku can constantly be a threat to any defence, no matter how good.
For the last time this ISL season I will say this line. With all this being said, I will simply leave you with this. This game will be an interesting game to watch, especially from a Chennaiyin’s point of view. They can’t set up just to defend as Bengaluru will thrive under that tempo, they also can’t go all out as they don’t have the power up front to outscore Bengaluru. With this, I think Bengaluru walk out the winners with a comfortable 2-0 win. I’ll go with Chhetri getting one and Miku getting the other, but what do I know. See you next season and thanks for reading this season!