ISL Final, Bengaluru v Goa: Road to Summit Clash - 3 reasons why Blues are favourites to grab ISL 2018-19 trophy
The Indian Super League (ISL) is reaching its business end this Sunday with Bengaluru FC and FC Goa contesting the ISL final at the Mumbai Football Arena on March 17.
Bengaluru scripted a stunning comeback in their second leg semifinal against NorthEast United, romping to a 3-0 victory at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium after losing the first leg 1-2 in Guwahati. Goa, on the other hand, progressed to the ISL final after beating Mumbai City 5-2 on aggregate.
Like last season, the battle for the top prize is between the top two teams from the league stage. Bengaluru, unfortunately, missed out on the ISL trophy in 2017-18, losing to Chennaiyin FC 2-3 in front of their home fans at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium.
Eight points separated Bengaluru and Chennaiyin in the league stage last time around, which prompted some of the Bengaluru players to take a dig at their opponents and the ISL with the #LeagueHotiTohKyaHota (loosely translating to 'Why Isn't It League' or 'What Would Happen If It Was A League?) term.
This time though, Bengaluru finished the league stage with 34 points, the same tally as Goa, and have a point to prove after their rants last season.
Here are three reasons why Bengaluru are favourites to win the ISL 2018-19:
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#3 Bengaluru's fighting spirit
It's in Bengaluru's DNA to always play to win. Even with their backs turned against the wall, this Bengaluru side, under coach Carles Cuadrat, has that belief to keep fighting till the very end.
Overturning a 2-1 deficit in a match as big as the ISL semifinal is no easy feat. Bengaluru's first-half performance wasn't their best either. They went into the half-time break against NorthEast United with their heads down but there returned to the pitch reassured that they could pull off the job against NEUFC.
You could argue that NorthEast did not have their Best XI on the pitch. NEUFC were unfortunate to lose their star player Federico Gallego to a horrifying injury in the 53rd minute. Gallego was taken to hospital in an ambulance after breaking his leg trying to stop a Miku shot. Eelco Schattorie was missing his charismatic captain Bartholomew Ogbeche and contributing midfielder Rowllin Borges before that second leg.
But it's not the first time that Bengaluru have pulled a rabbit out of the hat. They had a famous come-from-behind victory over ATK on October 31, 2018, with Miku and Erik Paartalu scoring after Komal Thatal gave ATK the lead.
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Against Kerala Blasters at home on Feb 6, they trailed 0-2 at half-time but rallied to snatch a point from the Kochi-based club, a result that helped them maintain their unbeaten record at home.
The AFC Cup 2016 victory over Johor Darul Ta'zim, after drawing 1-1 in Malaysia, epitomises Bengaluru's never-say-die attitude. And now that they are in the ISL final again, there's a feeling that the job is not done yet.
On Sunday, the fighting spirit will be in full flow again.