From being ninth in the table in early December to coming one step closer to glory, a chance beckons for Simon Grayson’s Bengaluru FC side to put the cherry on top of an iconic turnaround story when they take on ATK Mohun Bagan in the final of the Indian Super League at the Fatorda Stadium in Goa on Saturday. The two teams will square off for a chance to lift the prestigious trophy, having made their way to the showpiece clash on the back of nail-biting penalty shootout wins in their semifinal encounters, with Bengaluru FC prevailing 9-8 against Mumbai City FC while the Mariners overcame Hyderabad FC 4-3.
“What’s really struck me about this team is the belief. I believed in them and so did they that I was doing something for them to go out and get the results, and confidence has played a big part as well. The important thing now is that we don’t want to get too carried away and will continue to work hard ahead of the game tomorrow,” said Grayson, speaking to the media on the eve of the final in Goa.
Having stitched a 10-game winning run in 2023 en route to their way to the final, the Blues have made it to the Indian Super League final for a third occasion, and will look to be named Champions of India for the fourth time, having won the I-League title in 2014 and 2016, and the ISL title in 2019.
On the other hand, having missed out on getting their hands on the trophy in 2021, Ferrando’s ATK Mohun Bagan will be itching to spoil the Blues’ party and lift the trophy on Saturday night. Among the Blues’ ten consecutive wins in 2023, which catapulted them to the playoffs and eventually the final, included a 1-2 win against Ferrando’s men at the Saltlake Stadium, in early February.
“ATK Mohun Bagan have had a fantastic run of results to get to the final. They’ve got some individuals who can really hurt the opposition. We really respect them and I hope we stay on top of our game. I feel that tomorrow’s game will be a great advertisement for the League,” Grayson opined on Saturday night’s opponents.
The Englishman added, “I feel tomorrow’s game will be determined by which team wants it the most. At some points, you might need a bit of luck, but I don’t want these players to have any regrets after the game.”
Bengaluru FC will bank on the attacking trio of Javi Hernandez, Roy Krishna and Sivasakthi Narayanan, who will have their task cut out against a stubborn ATK Mohun Bagan defence, led by goalkeeper Vishal Kaith, who has also kept the most clean sheets (12) and conceded the second-fewest goals (17) in the League this season.
Ashique Kuruniyan, who picked up an ankle injury in the Mariners’ knockout game against Odisha FC, remains a doubt for the final having not been part of the squad in both legs of their semifinal encounter. Ferrando will look to cash in on the form of Dimitri Petratos, ATK Mohun Bagan’s top scorer (10) and assist provider (7) this season.
“During the games where we lost, I feel it was just those small mistakes that made us pay. We always knew we have players who can create chances and we want to do more of that. The team has trained on different matchday situations during training and if we continue to work hard and eradicate those small mistakes, then that will help us a great deal,” said Grayson.
Provided they win the game on Saturday night, Bengaluru FC will become only the third club after ATK FC and Chennaiyin FC to have lifted the Indian Super League trophy on more than one occasion. It will also give them a chance to make it to the AFC Cup Preliminary round, for which they will clash against 2021-22 ISL winners Hyderabad FC. Having made lofty dreams of getting to the playoffs from the depths of the Indian Super League table possible, the Blues will look to soar once again and get continental football for next season.
Kick-off between the two teams is scheduled for 7:30pm IST on Saturday, and will be telecast live on the Star Sports Network, Disney+Hotstar and Jio TV.
Tickets for the final can be purchased from bookmyshow.com .