AIFF Media Team
Kolkata, May 28, 2019: It’s the final of the 2018-19 Hero Junior League, as Bengaluru FC and three-time champions Minerva Punjab are all set to cross swords at the Kalyani Stadium in West Bengal, on Wednesday.
The two sides have made their long journeys from Karnataka and Punjab, respectively, to make it a South vs North encounter in the eastern lands. Minerva are set to play their fourth Junior League final after winning it three times in a row in 2016, 2017 and 2018.
While Minerva beat Shillong Lajong in their semifinal clash, Bengaluru FC overcame the challenge of their Southern rivals Kerala Blasters FC; both teams won by the same scoreline – 2-0.
The Blues have been the most consistent team in the tournament so far. They have maintained a perfect record, winning all their 12 matches, including the Zonal Round.
Coached by Ajay Madhavrao Chorge, Bengaluru FC have scored an astounding 87 goals from these 12 matches, and are yet to concede a single goal in the entire tournament. They have played an expansive game that saw the young Blues keep possession of the ball and break down defences, a philosophy which their gaffer is not ready to give up on.
“We are not really thinking about our opponents or the fact that it is a final,” said Chorge. “For us, its just another game that we need to win.”
The BFC gaffer, who is a strong exponent of a passing game, believes that it is the process and not the outcome that is important for the youngsters at this level.
“Minerva are a good side and we have analysed their game, but we want to play it according to our own style. I’ve told my players to play with a heart and believe in the process,” said Chorge.
While the Blues mainly depend on their overall gameplay to hunt the opposition defence in packs, India U-16 International Bekey Oram has been a standout player for them in this campaign. The forward from Odisha has scored seven times from 10 appearances in this campaign and will be looking to prove his mettle on Wednesday.
Minerva Punjab FC
While Bengaluru FC have excelled throughout the tournament, Minerva Punjab have relied on their gritty display on crucial occasions, to make it out of their group on the final matchday. That was followed by another clinical display against Shillong Lajong, who, till that point, had not lost a single game.
The Warriors have also shown the propensity to build their attacks from the back, though they seem to have a certain advantage from the set-pieces.
“Both teams are equally good in all sectors. Bengaluru FC are a good side and play good football, and they have physically bigger players. But we have also strategized for the game and will focus on our strengths to get the best result tomorrow,” said Minerva gaffer Harpreet Singh.
The club from Chandigarh, however, is built around midfielder Maheson Singh, who has played a crucial role in their accession to the final so far. The India U-15 international has netted eight goals from seven appearances so far in the tournament, and also played a crucial role in building Minerva’s attacks.
“Maheson is an important player for us,” said Harpreet. “However, all our players are crucial in their respective roles, and we need all of them functioning at their top levels, in order to win the championship.”
Both Minerva and Bengaluru have already battled it out against each other in the senior level, where the two clubs have earned trophies to their name. Now, it remains to be seen who would be triumphant at the Kalyani Stadium, once the game gets underway at 3.30 pm on Wednesday.
The match will be streamed Live on the I-League official Facebook page.