Bengaluru FC, after a two-match winning run to start their debut campaign, suffered their first defeat in the Indian Super League (ISL) when they lost to FC Goa in a gripping away encounter that saw fortunes see-saw for both sides for most of the game. Goa won for the first time in front of their home crowd.
It was impressive that Bengaluru FC managed to score two goals in the second half, despite losing their goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh in the 36th minute when he was sent off for hitting Manuel Lanzarote’s face. But there are a few fissures that the debutants need to fix to realize their title hopes.
‘Beginning wasn’t as expected’
As head coach Albert Roca acknowledged after the game, Bengaluru’s “beginning was not as expected.” They couldn’t make the most of Edu Garcia’s free-kick that landed well inside the penalty area less than three minutes into the game. Erik Paartalu had nicely set it up for Lenny Rodriguez. But his right-footed kick went too wide and hardly troubled the under-fire Goan ‘keeper Laxmikant Kattimani.
Rodriguez was shown the yellow card after an ill-timed tackle in the seventh minute.
Bengaluru failed to capitalise on another Garcia free-kick in the 12th minute when Paartalu’s header was stopped by Kattimani.
The Goans, hitherto mostly thwarting Bengaluru’s attacks, found an opening when Edu Batia’s lob found Ferran Corominas, who then made a fantastic run, going past four defenders before blazing the ball with a right-footed kick in to the bottom left corner of Bengaluru’s net.
And just like that, the Blues were left chasing the game that they were dictating.
Gurpreet’s moment of madness
After Miku swung the momentum back in Bengaluru’s favuor but Goa soon regained the lead when Corominas struck in the 33rd minute. And then came the most crucial and the eventful moment of the match. Manuel Lanzarote had only Gurpreet to beat for netting the third goal for Goa. The latter exploded towards Lanzarote, slid to kick the ball towards a defender, who took it away. But a fired up Gurpreet, then, pushed Lazarote’s head that prompted the referee to send him away. There was a debate over whether the double-whammy of a red card and a penalty was warranted, but there’s no question that Gurpreet’s reaction deserved a sending-off, despite replays suggesting he was provoked.
And that red card disrupted Bengaluru’s formation – defender Rahul Bheke had to be substituted for Abhra Mondal – and offered Goa a penalty, which Lanzarote easily converted for a 3-1 lead.
“It’s just the question of controlling our emotions,” said Roca after the game, “You have to go on the pitch 100% focussed.”
“We did well, we came back really quick after Goa’s first goal and that’s the reaction we want. But too many things happened today with the players and it’s a shame. It’s time to wake up and keep working if we want to be there at the top.”
Chhetri’s lacklustre night
With the match slipping away and the desperation to equalise made Sunil Chhetri irritable. This was evident when he yelled at the referee for letting go a Goan player who tried to impede his run just before half time.
In the second half, too, in which Bengaluru scored twice, Chhetri’s involvement was minimal. It was Miku, with the goal of the night (and perhaps one of the best in the tournament), who equalised for The Blues.
Chhetri, in the 82nd minute, even granted a free-kick to Goa after the referee spotted his handball.
“I know Sunil is a great player but he’s human,” coach Roca defended his star player. “He can play better but this player has given so much for us, it’s not always that he can be at the same level.”
With a man down and Chhetri having a forgettable night, Bengaluru lost their first game away. In the I-League last season, the team could win only two of their nine away games. Coach Roca hopes to better that record as Bengaluru will go to Guwahati and Pune to take on NorthEast United FC and FC Pune City before returning home.
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