The road to glory for the ISL champions BENGALURU FC

Rohit Ganguly  |  Special  |  1 Month Ago

If we take a walk down the memory lane exactly a year back from this year’s ISL final, the date would have read 17th March 2018. An evening that witnessed the triumph of a rampant force from the south of India called Chennaiyin FC over another South-Indian contingency that made their debut in ISL in that very season. A finale that featured unreserved slugfest bedecked by some late high-octane drama saw Chennai walking away with the bragging rights despite Miku pushing hard to salvage the equalizer.


Surging ahead through the Indian skipper’s clinical strike, Bengaluru bent their knees to a brace from Mailson Alves and a screamer from Raphael Augusto. However, Miku scored Bengaluru’s second goal deep in the dying embers of the regulation time. Despite, emptying their arsenal for the last minute, Bengaluru failed to fire home that equalizer and Chennai successfully defended that slender lead to become the ISL champions for the second time.


However, like Freddie Mercury wrote that famous unforgettable line in one of the greatest rock ballads of all time, “But it's been no bed of roses
                  No pleasure cruise
                  I consider it a challenge before the whole human race
                  And I ain't gonna lose”.


The biggest challenge of all time for a winner is to bite the bullet. This herculean essay entails accepting the mistakes and to make some uneasy and unpleasant decisions, which not only severs ties but also draws major flak initially. After a phenomenal season throughout, the Blues let go of two of their most trusted soldiers. The first name was John Johnson and the second one was Albert Roca.


With Johnson and Roca departed, the management recruited a technical giant in the form of Carles Cuadrat who has penned several glorious years at Galatasaray, Saudi Arabia and El Salvador. Carles was the sidekick to Albert Roca for a couple of years at Bengaluru. This made the task a lot easier for the Spaniard as he knew the players well and shared a good bond with them.

Bengaluru began their second ISL campaign against the defending champions who left them undone in the previous season’s finale. It wasn’t just a game but a battle of pride and honour for both the teams.


BFC had the last laugh as they pipped Chennaiyin FC by a solitary goal coming from Miku, the most lethal striker in India at this point in time. However, their high hopes hit a snag in the very next game as Jamshedpur FC penned an incredible comeback in the last 10 minutes of the game to salvage a thrilling draw against a high-soaring BFC who lead until the 80th minute. Despite Sunil Chhetri bagging his first goal of the season in the 88th minute, Sergio Cidoncha bagged the equalizer to end the game at 2-2.


Bengaluru’s next challenge was FC Pune City who was no match to an insuperable force from the southern precinct of India. The Blues tamed the Orange army in their own backyard, riding on a brace from their skipper Chhetri and a goal from Miku.


The Blues continued their red hot form away from home when they bettered ATK by coming back from a goal down to pump in a goal on either side of the breather to walk away with the victory.


It seemed that this dominant force from the South showed no signs of rusting away from home. After taming Pune and ATK in their respective homes, Bengaluru hammered Kerala Blasters in their own den. Chhetri was on song as he already had scored his 4th of the season.


The next challenge for Bengaluru was FC Goa. It seemed as if they were away on an endless tour. In what eventually turned out to be an ugly battle between both, Bengaluru thrashed Goa riding on strikes from Rahul Bheke and Sunil Chhetri.


The homecoming for the Blues wasn’t as phenomenal what everyone anticipated to be. After a scrappy affair, the Blues still managed to log full points, thanks to a late strike from Udanta Singh.


The next bout for the Blues was against FC Pune City. This game witnessed a force that was en route to inflicting an ignominy on the visitors, if not for their profligacy. Udanta Singh drew first blood for the hosts. However, Rahul Bheke couldn’t simply keep the ball from rolling into his own net and ended up scoring an own goal restoring parity for Pune. However, what happened next was Bengaluru ended up taking an incredulous number of 33 shots at the Pune goal and it was Rahul Bheke who made amends for his earlier howler, scoring in the 88th minute to win the game for the Blues.

However, Bengaluru was about to enter a rough patch in their dominant journey so far. They ended their next couple of games, drawing with North East United and a numerically depleted Mumbai City FC.


They bounced back strongly in their return leg fixture against the Highlanders. Chencho Gyltshen, the Bhutanese Ronaldo scored an acrobatic volley to seal the victory for the hosts.


However, post that victory, Bengaluru’s chariot started losing steam and went on to hit a few unexpected snags. They tasted their first defeat of the season at the hands of Mumbai City FC. Paulo Machado’s solitary goal was the only difference between the two sides.


In their remaining fixtures, Bengaluru successfully brushed aside challenges from North East United and FC Goa. However, they drew with Kerala Blasters, lost to Chennaiyin FC, Delhi Dynamos and were humiliated by Jamshedpur in their final league game.


In the playoffs, they were scheduled to duke it out with North East United. In Guwahati, the Highlanders dished out a scintillating performance to go to the second leg of the game with a 2-1 aggregate.


The second leg of the fixture saw Bengaluru deracinating North East United from the roots with an emphatic 3-0 victory which featured a marvellous goal from Miku, a simple tap in from Dimas Delgado and a blistering run to go past the North East custodian by Sunil Chhetri.


The next stop was the day of reckoning for the giants from the South. Bengaluru FC was all set to cross swords against a confident FC Goa in the annual extravagant finale of Indian Super League. Two finals in two years, an enviable record paralleled by none and the stadium was a boiling cauldron of a thousand unspoken emotions.


The game started on a positive note, despite later spiralling into a cagey affair. After a reserved battle of 90 minutes which failed to decide the winner of this marathon league, the game went into extra time. Towards the end of the first half of extra time, Ahmed Jahouh ended up in the stands after being given marching orders for a raised boot in the gut of Miku. This was the cue for Bengaluru to take over the reins.


The Blues did exceptionally well in the second half and kept on coming back over and over again at a depleted Goa. The unreserved salvo fructified when Rahul Bheke out-jumped his marker and nut home the solitary goal of the finale with only a minute to glory. With sixty seconds elapsing like 60 years, the fans and the officials along with players held on to their breath with apprehension.


The final beep of the whistle sounded like a shrill cry from the heavens sending the Bengaluru supporters into an ineffable delirium of unhinged ecstasy. They were the champions, the newly crowned champions of Indian Super League 2019. A story that saw them ruling the roost right from the beginning of the season until the end is only a tiny testimony to their greatness. Like Freddie Mercury sang the denouement to the aforementioned lines,


“We are the champions, my friends
And we'll keep on fighting 'til the end
We are the champions
We are the champions
No time for losers
'Cause we are the champions”


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