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Popovic, Roca mesmerised by Chhetri’s hat-trick

Bengaluru FC rode Chhetri’s hat-trick to make it to the final of the Hero Indian Super League (ISL) 2017-18 season.

FC Pune City head coach Ranko Popovic called Sunil Chhetri “the best ever Indian player” while his Bengaluru FC counterpart, Albert Roca, was at a loss of words to define him.

Bengaluru FC rode Chhetri’s hat-trick to make it to the final of the Hero Indian Super League (ISL) 2017-18 season.

The India skipper’s triple strike gave Bengaluru FC a facile 3-1 win in a tense second-leg semifinal at the Kanteerava Stadium yesterday.

Jonatan Lucca’s free-kick goal gave Pune some hope of a fightback at 1-2 but Chhetri was too good on the day and sealed the deal with a minute to go for the final whistle.

“I think Sunil Chhetri is the best ever Indian player till now, and these kind of players know how to play these kind of games. He scored a hat-trick, and he was the hero today. The young players should learn from this,” said Popovic, lauding Chhetri’s standout performance on the pitch.

Praising Chettri’s efforts in a difficult game Roca said: “What can I say about him? He’s an outstanding player. There are no words to define him. This was such an important game, and he proved that he is always there when required. He is a wonderful player.”

After their goalless draw in Pune and the away goal dagger hanging over their head, Roca realised the importance of the game and added: “Today was a difficult game. So, it was not about Chhetri alone, he was undoubtedly brilliant, but the entire squad stood up to the challenge, it was a huge team effort.”

Looking ahead to the title clash on March 17, the 55-year-old Spaniard said that he was indeed happy to see his team in the final in their first ISL season.

“I am happy to have reached the final in our first season. The players have to put the same efforts that they have so far and give their best on the pitch. We have to win the title race, which is our last hurdle,” added Roca.

Gracious in defeat, Popovic too congratulated the Bengaluru team and their supporters who came out in huge numbers to support the team.

“Congratulations to Bengaluru FC for making it to the final and also all the best to them for that match. They played well and won the game, and they deserve to play in the final which will be played here. They have fantastic supporters, and a fantastic atmosphere here,” added the Pune coach.

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