Bengaluru FC goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu called his side “the champions” for winning the group stage after Chennaiyin FC defeated Bengaluru FC 3-2 in the ISL 2018 final.
In a tense Indian Super League final, Chennaiyin FC defeated the tournament favourites Bengaluru FC 3-2 to clinch the trophy. The Blues, who topped the group stage with 40 points, failed to win the title in their maiden season. After the loss amid the home crowd, Bengaluru FC’s goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu said “we won league stage and so we are champions”, a remark that was criticised by Chennaiyin FC coach John Gregory at the post-match press conference. Talking about the remarks, Gregory said, “I was honestly disappointed to hear these words. We won the cup is what I know.”
The former Aston Villa boss further went on to defend the play-offs format of ISL. “A large number of countries use this format. Play-offs were introduced in the UK about 20 years ago. You could finish sixth in your division and still win promotion to the Premiership. You could finish 20 points behind the champion. In my years, we did it, we finished sixth well behind Portsmouth and then won promotion,” he said.
Gregory further went on to praise Mailson for his efforts in the match. “Big man (Mailson) had scored twice all season, but has had lot of opportunities. Today he couldn’t have connected any better for both goals, which were almost identical,” he said.
He further praised his side for not letting the nerves affect them in the final few minutes of the match. “We showed a lot of gumption. We did not let anything bother us. This was a big obstacle, playing against the home team in a final. They are just an incredible group of players.”
Earlier, Bengaluru FC coach head coach Albert Roca also raised questions about ISL’s format. “Everybody knows we finished first, eight points above Chennaiyin. We are human beings, the players did an incredible job. I am sad for them and the fans. But that’s football,” he said. “I think even some of their (Chennaiyin) players came to us and said we should not have been in this situation. The tournament is like it is and we cannot change that. It is not for me to say that is fair or not. It is for you to say,” he added.
Bengaluru scored the first goal in the match with skipper Sunil Chhetri putting one behind the back of the net in the 9th minute, but Maílson Alves scored twice from a header in the first half to give his side a 2-1 lead. Raphael Augusto added another in the 67th minute to extend Chennai’s lead by two goals before Bengaluru’s Miku scored the second for his side in the 90+2 (minute) in a too-little-too-late effort