Miku hat-trick propels Bengaluru to Super Cup final
Bhubaneswar, Apr 17 (PTI) A 10-man Bengaluru FC rode on Miku's hat-trick as they staged a remarkable comeback to beat Mohun Bagan 4-2 and book a summit clash berth in the inaugural Super Cup football tournament here today.
Down by a goal at the interval and reduced to 10 men after Nishu Kumar was sent off in the 50th minute, Bengaluru fought back to emerge triumphant in the semifinal match at the Kalinga Stadium here.
Nicolas Fedor (Miku) scored a hat-trick (62nd, 65th, 89th minute) to turn things around while captain Sunil Chhetri (90th) came up with a sublime strike to take the game away from Mohun Bagan.
All of that happened after Dipanda Dicka had put Bagan in the lead in the 42nd minute. Dicka did manage to reduce the margin in added time (90+2) scoring another, but it was a bit too late.
Bengaluru FC now face East Bengal in the final slated to be played on April 20.
Mohun Bagan coach Shankarlal Chakraborty placed confidence in the same starting eleven which beat Shillong Lajong FC in the quarter-finals and went for a 4-4-2 formation.
Experienced defender Kingshuk Debnath started, with Australian Cameron Watson playing the role of the defensive mid-fielder and Nikhil Kadam and S K Faiaz manning the wings. The two men upfront were Lebanon's Akram Moghrabi and the in-form Cameroonian striker Dipanda Dicka.
On the other hand, Alberto Roca started with a 4-3-3, with India captain Chhetri leading a three-man forward line consisting of Venezuelan Miku and national team colleague Udanta Singh.
The first chance of the game fell to Nikhil Kadam in the 7th minute but he muffed up a left-footer -- shooting wide with just goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu to beat.
Minutes later, Bengaluru found their first scoring opportunity but Boithang Haokip shot at the side-netting from close.
In the 42nd minute, Mohun Bagan's dependable Dipanda Dicka gave the Kolkata side the lead.
Akhram latched onto a Nikhil Kadam header over Harmanjot Khabra on the left of the Bengaluru box. He put in a left-footed grounder across which went past two Bengaluru defenders and Gurpreet to find Dicka, who tapped in with his left foot.
Bengaluru ended the half with two bookings as well. Chhetri had earlier been booked for a challenge in the 38th minute and just before the half-time whistle, Khabra was also booked for a rough tackle.
At the start of the second half, Bengaluru brought in Spaniard Antonio Toni Rodriguez for Khabra and started as the more positive side. In the very first minute, Haokip hit straight to Bagan custodian Shilton Paul from close.
Bengaluru suffered a jolt in the 50th minute when a long clearance found Nikhil Kadam in the clear inside the Bengaluru half with only Gurpreet to beat. But his run was halted by Nishu Kumar who fouled him from behind and was promptly red-carded.
The loss of Nishu did not have any impact on Bengaluru as Miku got the equaliser in the 62nd minute. He then went on to complete his hat-trick to seal the game for Bengaluru.
The first was a clinical finish off an Udanta cut-in from the right. The second in the 65th minute was an intelligent quickly taken free-kick, initiated outside the Bagan box by Miku himself and cheekily supported by Toni, which also saw a cool finish from the Venezuelan.
The third was off a penalty in the 89th minute when Rana Gharami brought Udanta down inside the box.
Chhetri completed Bengaluru's goal tally in the 90th minute when he followed Gurpreet Singh Sandhu's long-kick, cut past his marker and pulled up a delightful curler from outside the top-right corner of the Mohun Bagan box which beat a diving Shilton Paul.
Dicka did get one back in added time but it was too late by then