Karim Bencherifa: The league is still wide open

The Moroccan coach believes that his side shall peak just in time for the Federation Cup next year…

Following the 1-1 draw against Mumbai FC, Mohun Bagan coach Karim Bencherifa acknowledged that his team found it difficult to score the equalizer with the opposition defending with ten men.

Mumbai FC took the lead through Mohammed Rafi which was cancelled out by Sathyan Sabeeth in the 80th minute to win a point for his side.

“This is a young side and we are in a process. I think we played very well today and the fact that we scored the goal from open play makes me happy. We also defended well and gave them little chance to enter our box. We conceded a goal from a set-piece. In the second half, they almost defended with ten-men in their half and it was not easy to score,” said Bencherifa.

Christopher Chizoba and Odafa Okolie were on target in the last game against United Sports Club but failed to threaten Mumbai FC’s defense.

“Christopher and Odafa played good football. You can't expect your strikers to score every day. They have not scored today, but they created a number of chances. We had chances; Manish (Bhargav) had to place it over the goalkeeper.”

Bencherifa wanted a wet field which would have allowed his side to pass the ball quicker against Mumbai FC. However the conditions weren’t precisely what the Bagan coach had desired for.

“I had a talk during half-time with the guy who is in charge about the wet field. He informed me that a pipe under the soil was spoiled and the ground was wet due to it. Yes, I had told them to make the field a little bit wet as I thought that it would help our style of play. We have players like Ram Malik, Manish Bhargav and Katsumi Yusa who have pace and it's important that the ball travels quickly so that the game also is fast.

“But that was not a little bit water. With the U-17 World Cup coming in the nation, I would hope that these pipes are fixed soon.”

The former Salgaocar FC coach stated that no team in the league can maintain their peak form throughout as everyone goes through ups and downs.

“Nowhere in the world does a team play a league in peak form throughout. Look at Salgaocar, who had a great start but have not won the last 5 matches. If they don't win today (which they didn’t), it will be six matches. But they are a good team and will come back from this. So, it's the luck that decides when you will have the peak. I think that our team will reach that in time for the Federation Cup.”

He pointed that none of the teams in the league have managed to reach the level of consistency Dempo SC had a few years back with the primary reason being having kept the same set of players for a long term. He also added that the future looks bright for his side given the progress the players are making under his tutelage.

“Before the game, everybody was excited but I was not. I am looking for consistency. Nobody has run with the I-League yet. Last year we lost 15 points and catched up. The league is still wide open and we have a good realistic chance to go into better positions. We are only 8-to-9 points behind and in three matches you can make that up. 

“The players are for the future. I am amazed with the progress of the players. It took Dempo two years to get consistent results. It took East Bengal three years and still they have not reached that level of consistency.”

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