Goals from Sunil Chhetri and Robin Singh ensured that Bengaluru FC held on for a 2-1 victory over an impressive Dempo unit to claim the 36th Hero Federation Cup. The victory added a second trophy to coach Ashley Westwood’s treasure trove.
Hosting its first football Federation Cup final in ten years, the Fatorda Stadium perhaps had all the ingredients of a final that will be remembered for years to come. A galaxy of stars were on show and the crowd was in full voice as echoes of the trumpets and tom-tom drums resonated throughout the stadium.
Both Managers Opt for Strong Lineup
Ashley Westwood opted to rest Siam Hanghal, after an average performance by the midfielder against Sporting Clube de Goa. The energetic Thoi Singh was deployed on the left flank in his place. This move meant that skipper Sunil Chhetri was playing alongside Sean Rooney in a 4-4-2 formation.
Dempo coach Arthur Papas had to make do without prolific and industrious midfielder Lenny Rodrigues in the heart of midfield due to bookings in the previous fixture. Experienced India international Peter Carvalho was deployed in midfield instead.
Dempo dominate but Bengaluru FC score first
The first ten minutes of the first half saw a Dempo domination. The delightful linkup plays between the Dempo midfield, led by Jewel Raja, Romeo Fernandes and Tolgay Ozbey were giving the Bengaluru defensive paring of John Johnson and Curtis Osano all sorts of problems.
A rare attack from Bengaluru ensured that the Blues were awarded a corner at the edge of the ten minute mark. A careless shove inside the box from Afghan international Zohib Amiri won the Blues a penalty. As he has done numerous times before, the Indian captain Sunil Chhetri sent Dempo goalkeeper Laxmikanth Kattimani the wrong way and Bengaluru FC were one goal to the good, early in the game.
Dempo step up the tempo
The conversion of the penalty from Sunil Chhetri sent a shock wave across the Fatorda, with the only sound in the stadium coming from the few Bengaluru fans from one corner of the ground. A shout of encouragement from Arthur Papas and a superior percentage of possession, the Golden Eagles stepped up the tempo as Blue’s keeper Ralte was tested on numerous occasions by stern build up plays from Francis and Romeo Fernandes. A few more chances came as Dempo captain Clifford Miranda too getting into the mix and leading by example.
Tolgay Ozbey strikes as Josh Walker limps off
With almost a half hour of football played, Bengaluru FC marquee player, Josh Walker hobbled off with what looked like an injury to his left thigh. The gritty Englishman was replaced by the dependable Robin Singh. Despite signalling attacking intent, the Blues were left with a man short in defence. The change also prompted changes in the Dempo line up with wing-back Clifford Miranda pushed up the field to enforce attacks on the Bengaluru goal.
Dempo’s most prominent player and top scorer Tolgay Ozbey looked the most threatening, as his delightful footwork secured a shot on goal. Ozbey would be presented with yet another chance after a soft penalty was awarded to his side. A tug on the back of Zohib Amiri from John Johnson prompted the referee to point to the spot in favor of the Golden Eagles.
Tolgay Ozbey’s spot kick found its way past Blue’s keeper Ralte and in this way the first half concluded with a scoreline of 1-1.
Bengaluru FC have their tail up
Although the half time goal gave Arthur Papas’ men renewed confidence against the reigning I League champions, it was Bengaluru who came out after the half time break with fire in their belly.
Dempo hit by Injury to Tolgay Ozbey
The situation for Ashley Westwood’s men improved as Tolgay Ozbey too hobbled off with a potential cramp. His replacement, Holicharan Nazary failed to create the same impact.
Robin Singh restores Bengaluru’s lead
A few minutes following the Tolgay Ozbey substitution, Robin Singh did what he does best. His physical presence seemed to be a bit too much for Zohib Amiri and Fulganco Cardozo. A wonderfully floated cross from winger Beikhokhei Beingaichho found its way to the big Bengaluru front man, as the latter calmly headed the ball past Laxmikanth Kattimani to restore advantage in favor of the Blues.
Rowilson Fernandes sent off as tempers rise
The temper of the players on both sides were always on a knifes edge ever since Bengaluru were awarded a penalty. As a result, , every key decision by the referee was met with angry and heated arguments from the players
However, with about twenty odd minutes remaining, Arthur Papas’ quest for the federation cup was all but over, as the referee finally gave in and sent off Dempo’s defensive stalwart Rowilson Fernandes for a full blooded reckless challenge on Thoi Singh.
Dempo dig deep but to no avail
Despite being reduced to 10 men, the Golden Eagles dug deep, as substitute Alwyn George succeeded in creating chances and give the tiring Dempo players a renewed hope. However, his efforts were in vain, as the clock ticked away and the chance of an equalizer looked all the more unlikely.
In a bid to reinforce his defence, Ashley Westwood introduced Chhuantea, even as the Golden Eagles failed to find a way past the Bengaluru defence. The match ended with the score at 2-1 in favor of Bengaluru F.C, as the latter etched their names on the Federation Cup.
The hard earned victory has earned Ashley Westwood and his men their first Federation Cup in only their second attempt. Although Josh Walker’s injury seemed serious, all Bengaluru fans will be hoping and praying that their marquee player returns to full fitness as they begin their title defense on the 17th of January. Coincidentally, their I League campaign kicks off against Dempo S.C, in what will be a replay of this final.
Despite finishing runners-up, Dempo S.C’s Australian manager Arthur Papas can take solace in the fact that his side put up a fight. However, Papas will be looking to ensure that his players translate that excellent form into a successful league campaign.
At the moment however, the chants of ” The Blues go marching in..” will certainly resonate in the ears of all the Bengaluru F.C players.