36th Federation Cup: Bengaluru FC up against Sporting Goa with place in final at stake!
Bengaluru FC's dominant 36th Federation Cup run reaches a pivotal stage when they take on Sporting Clube de Goa in the semifinals of the country's premier cup competition at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Margao on Friday. Salgaocar FC squaring off against Dempo SC in the first semis makes Bengaluru FC the only non-Goa club in the fray and Ashley Westwood's team is confident of building on the performances they have strung together through the league stages of the cup.
The Blues came through Group B undefeated (3 wins and 1 draw) and more impressive was the manner they went about things. Beating Salgaocar FC 3-2 in the opener, Bengaluru FC followed it up with a tight performance in the goalless draw against Mohun Bagan AC before outplaying Shillong Lajong FC (1-0) and Pune FC (1-2) to end the group as toppers.
Sporting Goa, on their part, staged a miraculous escape out of the group stages when – after being 3-1 down against East Bengal Club in their last league game – pulled it together in an amazing turnaround to end up 3-4 winners and book their date with Bengaluru FC.
Though Goa has been a happy hunting ground for Bengaluru FC (8 wins, two draws and just the 1 loss), Westwood knows well enough to take things for granted. "We're looking forward to tomorrow's game. In a tournament hugely dominated by Goan sides, we are the only ones flying the flag from another state. Any game away from home is always difficult as proven by the Kolkata and Pune sides in this tournament. The odds are against us but we will be doing our best to churn out a positive performance as we want to do well in this tournament," said the gaffer on the eve of the game.
Bengaluru FC have played Sporting Goa three times in all competitions, winning two and drawing one. Interestingly, the Blues played Sporting Goa in the Fed Cup opener last year in Kerala where Westwood's boys completely outplayed the Goa club in a 5-3 result. But Westwood remains cautious. "Sporting are a good side with good Indian players and dangerous foreigners. I'm sure it will be a good game of football."
The I-league champions went through a light session on Thursday and skipper Sunil Chhetri sounded confident about the game. "We've been working hard through the tournament and our performances have been proof enough. But there's still work to be done if we are to make the final. We all saw what Sporting are capable of and we are wise enough to not bask on past glory. One thing is for certain, the team will give this all they have got," said Chhetri who is joint top-scorer of the tournament this far with four goals.