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Indian Super League

ISL 2019-20: An exhibition of quality football from Bengaluru FC and FC Goa

11:53 AM MYT 04/01/2020
Carles Cuadrat
The Blues and the Gaurs played out a terrific game which was decided by Cuadrat's flexibility and Chhetri's finishing...

Bengaluru FC and FC Goa have undoubtedly been two of the most consistent teams in the Indian Super League (ISL) over the last three seasons. As such, a battle between the two sides always generates a lot of hype.

On Saturday, the teams delivered on the hype by playing out a brilliant tussle that finished 2-1 in Bengaluru's favour after a couple of brilliant finishes from Sunil Chhetri.

The coaches - Carles Cuadrat and Sergio Lobera - derive their philosophy from possession-based football meant that this fixture would always be an interesting affair.

The visitors dominated the first half with an aesthetically pleasing brand of football. The transitions were seamless, one-touch passes in midfield were aplenty, dummies were a common sight and cross-field passes from full-back to winger were accurate.

Goa executed all this despite Bengaluru pressing hard and overloading the flanks. Nishu Kumar was pivotal in keeping Jackichand Singh quiet and this helped the hosts immobilise the right flank.

“Goa are a very good side who play very good football. I know Jackichand (Singh) and have played with him. He is very good. I know his positives. The coach also gave me instructions that I followed,” Nishu told Goal after the match.

With the cross-field balls from Carlos Pena bearing no results, the visitors opted to play from the centre more often. But Juanan Gonzalez stood tall to keep Ferran Corominas at bay.

Hugo Boumous’ ability to take players on then came handy for the Gaurs. The Frenchman sprung to life in the second half and scored with a neat finish following an intricate move that he began from midfield.

Bengaluru too had to change their approach several times in the game. The Blues have not been stubborn about sticking to their philosophy this season. Unlike in possession-based football, most of the chances created by the hosts resulted from Gurpreet Singh Sandhu setting the quick Udanta Singh into space with a long ball behind Goa’s defence.

The winger could not do justice to the custodian’s wide passing range and was taken off at the break. Bengaluru’s approach changed drastically after this change and it changed for the better. Dimas Delgado found himself with more creative responsibilities and Sunil Chhetri too dropped deep to create chances.

Naturally, all of Bengaluru’s lines dropped by small margins and Goa took the cue to play a higher line and attack more fearlessly. This left them vulnerable on the counter and that was exactly how the hosts registered their second goal.

Goa’s assistant manager Jesus Tato claimed that it could have been anyone’s game, and he was happy with his team’s performance.

“I think two strong teams played good football today. Anyone could win it, but unfortunately for us, it was Bengaluru,” he said.

This is an accurate summary of the game. Both sides changed their approach several times and posed questions at their opponent each time and provided us with an entertaining game of football.

Credit must be given for Cuadrat for showing flexibility to change his plans after identifying the issues. He took off Udanta who struggled to make an impact while Manuel Onwu was brought on at half-time and then taken off before the second half ended after failing to get involved.

Chhetri, on the other hand, made the difference with his finishing. He also thrived on the space afforded to him after playing down the left instead of down the middle. Goa, meanwhile, have once again failed to make the most of their superiority on the ball against Bengaluru count. Just like in the 2019 final, Goa were punished for it on Sunday.