The last time Bengaluru FC lost back-to-back games in a domestic competition was when they were downed 5-3 on aggregate by Aizawl FC in the Federation Cup semi-final over two legs. A lot has changed at the club since then with Albert Roca taking charge which was followed by a memorable run in the AFC Cup and three wins at home in the I-League.
However, the three wins came against relatively weaker oppositions – Shillong Lajong, Chennai City and Mumbai FC. On paper, the JSW-owned club have one of the best squads in the country. Injuries have certainly not helped with the likes of Rino Anto, Lalchhuanmawia Fanai and Sandesh Jhingan ruled out of action.
Defensively they are short of options with only Salam Ranjan Singh being the back-up for John Johnson and Juanan.
The bigger worry for Albert Roca is that his star players haven’t hit the ground running. Sunil Chhetri hasn’t found the back of the net from open play since the famous victory over Malaysian champions Johor Darul Ta’zim back in September last year. Since then, he has gone 11 games without scoring a goal for Bengaluru FC and Mumbai City FC before hitting the back of the net from the spot against Churchill to break his duck.
Although he did show glimpses of his vintage form with a couple of runs down the left, the Bengaluru skipper needs to up his game in order to inspire his team-mates. Chhetri is known to rise up to the challenge and perform in big games. It's time for him to muzzle his detractors wrong again.
Eugeneson Lyngdoh too has been listless in the I-League. Considered the best midfielder in the country for the last two seasons, the Shillong-born Indian international has been shoddy to say the least, failing to pick his team-mates and committing needless errors. The 30-year-old's form is a cause of concern for the I-League champions.
Roby Norales was handed his first start for the Blues and the Honduran looked lively in the early exchanges. He won the penalty which Chhetri dispatched but thereafter saw his header from inside the box not hit the target. The former Real Sociedad striker doesn’t look comfortable on the right in a three-pronged attack and his link-up play with Harmanjot Khabra hasn’t been the best. He couldn't get a shot on target thereafter as he struggled against Fulganco Cardozo.
Daniel Lalhimpuia was wasteful against Lajong, Nishu Kumar looks defensively susceptible while their high line of defence has been exposed by East Bengal and Churchill’s quick wingers. Chesterpoul Lyngdoh, not that he isn’t talented, was made to look one of the best wingers in the country with Khabra struggling to contain him while Surabuddin Mollick gave Nishu an absolute hiding.
Adding to the problems is John Johnson’s likely suspension by picking a straight red card coupled with his needless scuffle with Churchill coach Alfred Fernandes. The English centre-back wasn’t 100 per cent fit for the tie and it was evident in the manner in which Anthony Wolfe was allowed to score the equaliser. Amrinder Singh coming off his line failed to smother the attack which ultimately resulted in Wolfe scoring the equaliser. As a golden rule of goalkeepers, they ought to get a touch on the ball when they come off their line, something which the former Pune FC custodian failed to elicit.
Roca and Carles Cuadrat certainly have a task at hand as they look to arrest Bengaluru’s slide. For now they need not worry much about the I-League as they travel to Jordan on Sunday for their AFC Champions League play-off against Al Wehdat.