Popovic, Roca mesmerised by Chhetri's hat-trick

Udanta Singh Mumbai City FC Bengaluru FC ISL 4 2017/2018

In a masterful performance by Sunil Chhetri on Sunday, the Indian captain led his Bengaluru FC side into the final in their first stint in Indian Super League.

When Bengaluru FC chose to shift from the I-League to the Indian Super League (ISL) a year ago, they were instantly recognised as one of the favourites to win the title. In the first leg, Bengaluru failed to breach the defence of the rivals as they hardly allowed their top goal scorers Venezualan Miku and captain Sunil Chhetri to create chances. These kinds of players know to play such games (like semi-final). The ball looped in, nearly in slow motion, to give Bengaluru a deserved first-half lead. The visitors clawed their way back through substitute Jonathan Lucca's 30-yard free-kick in the 82nd minute but Chhetri calmed nerves with a stunning solo run and finish a minute from injury time to give Bengaluru their 14th straight win across all competitions.

But it was to be Chhetri's day as the striker streaked clear of Pune's Rohith Kumar to slot past the keeper and complete his hat-trick before jumping the barricade to celebrate in front of the fans at the stadium's West Block.

"He is simply outstanding and there are no words to define him".

FC Pune City coach Ranko Popovic too couldn't hide his admiration for the Bengaluru skipper and suggested that Sunil Chhetri is the best player ever to play for India.

The result means Bengaluru FC becomes the first team to qualify for the ISL final scheduled to be played on March 17 where they will play the victor of the second semi-final between Chennaiyin and Goa. His age does not matter.

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The Albert Roca-coached side won 13 times out of their 18 league games, losing on just four occasions with one draw to show for.

"I am happy to have reached the final in our first season. The squad, technical staff.all were there in such an important game and they performed extremely well". "I think this game was a scare for the players", Roca had said.

"We tried to make the game hard for them".

Chhetri's second came in the second half as he drew a foul inside the box from Sarthak Golui, who first tackled him from behind and then pushed to the ground. Chhetri quashed all their dreams and hopes, as he exhibited predatory instincts to go past his marker and score his third goal of the game and sealing the tie once and for all. That was our idea.

We can't be disappointed with our season.

The Spaniard changed his system in order to expose chinks in Pune City's armour... Both goals (we conceded) was due to inexperience. If we had made such a mistake in any other game, it would have been fine but making it in the second leg of a semi-final was a bit too much.

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