BY MANASI PATHAK Follow Manasi (@ThatUnitedLady) on Twitter
Sunday evening at Sree Kanteerava Stadium was the perfect start for the home crowd as Benglauru FC clinched three points on their Indian Super League (ISL) debut. Goals from Spanish winger Eduardo Garcia and skipper Sunil Chhetri sealed the victory for The Blues; however, they could have netted more than just the two strikes.
As expected, the home side dominated ball possession right from the start. However, despite being the superior side in the first half, The Blues struggled to find clear openings. Udanta Singh was too fast on the right-wing for Mumbai defenders to handle but unimpressive finishing skills from the youth sensation meant that Mumbai breathed a sigh of relief.
Around the half-hour mark, the ISL's new entrants missed three chances within a period six minutes. First, Chhetri’s volley flew wide off the post and just four minutes later, his shot was blocked inside Mumbai City’s box. Finally, an unmarked Lenny Rodrigues wasted the third chance as his attempt off Eduardo Garcia’s corner-kick, failed to make the mark by a few inches.
All this while, Mumbai City were just resorting to keeping things tight at the back. The likes of Marcio Rosario and Gerson Vieira were assertive in their tackles and challenges. However, in the pursuit of putting up a physical performance, Gerson got himself booked and also escaped a possible suspension after his high-boot challenge on Erik Partaalu in the first quarter of the game.
Mumbai City seemed decently organized in defence and much of the credit must go to coach Alexandre Guimaraes who maintained the same in their campaign last year. However, that’s the only thing they could boast of because there was no spark in their attack, whatsoever. The absence of midfield lynchpin Matias Defederico and star strikers Sony Norde and Diego Forlan from last season seemed evident as they struggled to thread together moves in the opposition’s half.
Goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu and the defenders in blue were barely put to test. Mumbai City’s lone striker Everton Santos had minimal impact in the game and the midfield is to be blamed for this. Sahil Tavora and Sanju Pradhan failed in creating any real chances while Emana Achille, who came on for Leo Costa after the Brazilian pulled his hamstring, initiated some action but couldn’t carry it forward. The 35-year-old Cameroonian attacker looked lethal on the ball but pace wasn’t on his side, just like his age.
Bengaluru FC scored twice in the match; much lesser than one would have expected them to, considering the chances they created. While 440 passes were executed by the JSW-owned side, the Ranbir Kapoor co-owned outfit managed just 272. Also, zero shots on target in comparison to six of Bengaluru FC’s showed the gap between the two side’s attacking prowess.
The fluidity in Bengaluru FC’s play was expected as much of their core was retained this season. Also, the team had played four competitive matches prior to their ISL 2017 journey, having faced Istiqlol FC and April 25 SC in the AFC Cup. But, The Blues need to be more clinical in their finishing if they aim to lay their hands on the winning trophy.
On the other hand, with 17 games remaining, Guimaraes has plenty of time to alter his plans. A certain inclusion of Balwant Singh, who was ruled out for the tie at Kanteerava, would be the immediate wish of The Islanders who will fly back to homeland Mumbai to take on FC Goa on 25th November.