Five reasons why Bengaluru FC deserved the I-League

Bengaluru deservedly won the I-League after cruising to a 4-2 win against Dempo. Goal takes a look at the reasons which led to their maiden triumph...
Bengaluru FC won the I-League in style with still a game to spare after beating Dempo SC 4-2 in Goa. Goal takes a look some of the reasons why the Ashley Westwood led side managed to capture the country's top crown in their very first attempt...

Defensive strength

The centre-back pairing of Curtis Osano and John Johnson, both imports from the Premier League was instrumental in the success of Bengaluru FC. If the Blues were lethal in front of goal it was because of the cover that was afforded by their defense which worked their socks off. The two defenders are strong aerially and so far haven't let any of the strikers dominate them in air. Add to this, Johnson can also put his head to good use by scoring at the other end. None of the I-League teams have opted for two foreign central defenders, except Dempo SC in the second half of their campaign. Bengaluru have shown that a strong defense is the platform for the attacking players to thrive upon.

'Rejects' proving their worth

Ashley Westwood and his assistant, Pradhyum Reddy picked up players who were basically 'rejects' from most I-League clubs. Almost every player had to undergo trials and Westwood brought out the best from each of the players. The likes of Beikhokei Beingaichho, Thoi Singh, Johnny Menyongar and even Sean Rooney were plucked out of the wilderness and they performed to the hilt of their ability. Darren Caldeira didn't always start for Mumbai FC while Keegan Pereira wasn't even in the I-League squad for Salgaocar FC last season. Although the team lacked many star names besides Sunil Chhetri, their cohesiveness was second to none. 

Home form

An enviable home form was instrumental in their maiden I-League triumph. Often teams who win the championship have a dominant home record, something which Bengaluru FC took a note of. Only one loss and 4 draws with a staggering 7 wins in their 12 matches at Bengaluru was one of the prime reasons for their success. The fans too had a major role to play as the 8000-odd seater Bangalore Football stadium was often completely filled to the brim cheering every run and every chance made.

Sunil Chhetri led from the front

The Indian international who had troubles adjusting to Ashley Westwood's decision to stick him down the left gradually got into the groove. His 14 goals in the campaign were crucial but he also provided assists on a number of occasions. His defensive work down the left didn't allow the opposition full-back to move upfront and attack. This was probably the first campaign since Chhetri's last season with JCT that he has played a full season in the I-League without getting injured. Along with Sean Rooney who also scored in double figures, the two strikers bore the responsibility of keeping the score ticking when needed.

 Westwood was the boss

The usual virus that plagues Indian football where most orders are given by the club authorities and the manager merely is a spectator when it comes to team selection or even pursuing the players, was not present in the Bengaluru setup. Ashley Westwood was given a clean slate and funds were made available to go and get his players which he did by getting the Johnson-Osano combination. He ensured that the players were optimum fitness and even had the courage to drop Sunil Chhetri and Robin Singh in their opening matches as they hadn't attended much of the training sessions as they were busy with national team committments. This philosophy will indeed be an eye opener for most other clubs who are still stuck in stone age. 

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