“What we have achieved this season so far has taken a lot…”: Simon Grayson, Bengaluru FC head coach

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Simon Grayson celebrates with a Bengaluru FC player the thrilling semifinal win over Mumbai City FC at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium in Bengaluru on March 12, 2023.

Simon Grayson celebrates with a Bengaluru FC player the thrilling semifinal win over Mumbai City FC at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium in Bengaluru on March 12, 2023.
| Photo Credit: K. Murali Kumar

Sunday will rank among the very best evenings in Bengaluru FC’s history. Not fancied at the start of the two-legged semifinal against Mumbai City FC, Simon Grayson’s men battled hard over 210 minutes and a little more before nicking the tie in a nerve-wracking penalty shoot-out.

In a way, it was also representative of the side’s 2022-23 season. Not spoken of among the title challengers at the beginning, and down in the dumps two-thirds into it, only a miraculous run of wins resurrected the campaign and drove the club into the playoffs. Through this, it was BFC’s resilience and belief that stood out.

“We have come a long way… what we have achieved so far this season from where we were has taken a lot of mental strength and togetherness,” Grayson said on Monday. “It’s a fantastic achievement and now we have to go to Goa [final] and try and finish the job.”

It was to BFC’s credit that it didn’t wilt under MCFC’s relentless pressure. The result could have been very different if Greg Stewart had converted the early penalty at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium and Jorge Pereyra Diaz had not fluffed two golden opportunities in extra-time.

“We had to keep believing that a chance would come,” Grayson said. “We said to the players at half-time, and even after 90 minutes going into extra-time, that they will get chances, because we have some good players and we had the legs (fitness).”

Crucial save

“The penalty could have rocked us but we told ourselves ‘if anything goes against us, we will remain mentally strong’. The save gave us a lift. Gurpreet [Singh Sandhu] is a big frame but you expect Greg Stewart to score more often than not. That save gave us an extra lift,” the Englishman added.

Along with Gurpreet — who also saved Mehtab Singh’s spot-kick in the shoot-out — creator Javi Hernandez’s was an exceptional presence. Grayson, though, paid tribute to the whole squad.

“It would be unfair to pick out just one player. We had to be at our best against a strong Mumbai City and the players gave everything. The supporters have not had such nights for a long time. I am so proud of everyone.”

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