Mumbai City FC-Bengaluru FC Eye Maiden Durand Cup Title in Final; Sunil Chhetri Looks to Complete the Set

The Indian football season started with the 131st edition of the Durand Cup in Kolkata and the first tournament culminates with Mumbai City FC and Bengaluru FC facing off at the Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan on September 18.

Arriving in the City of Joy with their first teams and with the aim to win the oldest football tournament in Asia, the two Indian Super League sides have already fired the opening salvo. Mumbai City FC and Bengaluru FC will now look to cross the threshold to clinch the Durand Cup, Shimla Trophy and President’s Cup for the first time in their history.

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Mumbai City FC had topped their group, consisting Rajasthan United FC, ATK Mohun Bagan, East Bengal and Indian Navy, by the barest of margins but on top – after finishing on the same points with the first two teams and losing to the third in their last game. Bengaluru FC, finished as runners-up from their group – which had toppers Mohamedan SC, along with Jamshedpur FC, FC Goa and Indian Air Force.

Come the knockout stage, both had to dispose of strong fellow ISL sides – namely Chennaiyin FC and Odisha FC – and that too in extra time of their quarter-finals.

In the semi-finals, the Islanders defeated Mohamedan SC by a last-gasp goal as the Blues beat defending ISL champions Hyderabad FC thanks to an own goal.

Ahead of the summit clash, both coaches sounded cautious of injuries and stressed the need to treat the final “as just another game”.

Sunil Chhetri has won every tournament on offer in Indian football, expect the Durand Cup. When asked about it, at the pre-match press conference, he said: “We’re motivated enough because of the way we’ve progressed as a team going into the final. That I have not won it or that the team hasn’t been to a Durand Cup final is secondary.”

“We are here to win the Durand Cup and start the ISL season with more confidence. I am happy with my team till now. I am expecting an exciting match. BFC is a good team they have good players. My message to the team for tomorrow will be enjoy the game,” Mumbai City FC coach Des Buckingham said at the pre-match press conference.

Bengaluru FC coach Simon Grayson was mindful of the opponents in the final, saying at the pre-match press conference, “I think we have to play as a team tomorrow. Mumbai has some very good players. Greg Stewart and others. So, we know what they can do. They play a lot of passes. We have to be good tomorrow to stop the opposition. I think it’s important to win the final and it doesn’t matter in what style we play. We have to be careful tomorrow and make sure we play better. We don’t have any injuries. Our target will be to win the trophy without any injuries. We are in the final and we will make sure that we win the trophy because we have the mentality to win.”

The Islanders, who won the ISL and League Winners Shield in the 2020-21 season, have looked solid in the run-up to the finals and with the addition of Mourtada Fall, look a more rounded team. They have the highest scorer of the tournament with seven goals in Lallianzuala Chhangte in their ranks and someone of the quality of Greg Stewart marshalling the midfield with authority.

Bengaluru FC, on the other hand, are the ISL 2018-19 champions and also have six other top domestic titles to their name. They have presented the most successful striking force of the tournament with talisnman Sunil Chhetri, Roy Krishna and Siva Sakthi, all being in goal-scoring form. At the back too, the experience of regular Indian internationals like Sandesh Jhingan and Gurpreet Sandhu have held them in good stead. Moreover, they have been unbeaten in the run-up to the title clash.

With a mouth-watering contest on offer, Lt. Gen. KK Repswal, SM CSM, chief of staff Eastern Command and chairman of the tournament organising committee, speaking exclusively to urged the fans to come to the stadium and watch the game in numbers.

“Both (teams) are extremely competitive teams. I would like to appeal to all the fans, especially in Kolkata that they should not miss two ISL teams playing in the final. Durant Cup came to Kolkata because we felt the city if the ‘Mecca of football’ in India, so the fans must prove that irrespective that none of the local teams not being successful in reaching the final,” he said.

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