Jamshedpur FC leapfrogged to the top of the Indian Super League (ISL) standings with a goalless draw at the JRD Tata Sports Complex against defending champions Bengaluru FC, while both teams continue their unbeaten streak.
One of the things which have stood out after three rounds of matches is that it has been fairly difficult to identify the favourites in the current edition of the ISL. While last season’s semi-finalists FC Goa and NorthEast United have continued their ascent, clubs like ATK and Jamshedpur FC have come sprinting out of the block.
Goals win games – that is as basic as football can get, the final scoreline deciding the spoils but as was the case in Jamshedpur on Sunday evening, it may not always reflect the true nature of the contest. Bengaluru FC arrived at the Steel City of India on back of two consecutive draws, although they had tactically outsmarted both their opponents in the previous fixtures. The hosts had a lot of momentum coming into this crucial fixture, but caught a case of complacency early into the first half of play.
Spaniard Sergio Castel has made an excellent start to life in India, scoring two goals in his first two ISL appearances and Jamshedpur’s centre forward hit the post in the seventh minute, the home side’s only significant chance in the first half. Thereafter, the visitors asserted their dominance as chance after chance went begging while custodian Subrata Pal rolled back the years to produce a sublime display below the bars.
Juanan and Raphael Augusto miscued their headers as Udanta Singh belted in dangerous crosses from Bengaluru’s right flank. While consistency has always been an issue for the Indian midfielder in past, Singh has been one of the positives of Carles Cuadrat’s misfiring attacking squad this season. For Jamshedpur, Piti had been instrumental in the first two matches but against Bengaluru, the dynamic central midfielder often found himself isolated and outnumbered. Jamshedpur played with a tempo lesser than necessary, failing to progress the ball quickly through the channels and the visitors rightfully capitalized on their mistakes.
Turnovers were a consistent characteristic all through the 90 minutes, resulting in some excellent chances for Cuadrat’s side only to be denied by their lack of efficiency in the final third and Pal’s outstanding gloveswork. While his opposition counterpart Gurpreet Singh Sandhu remains the blue-eyed boy of Indian football right now, Pal showcased on Sunday why he earned 67 caps for the Indian national team.
His reactions in the six yard box was right on the money, Pal denied Harmanjit Khabra’s clever nudge from slotting in at the back of the net and commanded his penalty area while Bengaluru peppered the Jamshedpur backline with crosses and caught them out with switches of play. The second half saw a resurgent Jamshedpur FC, following a tough half-time talk from Antonio Iriondo, who admitted after, “I’m not happy with the performance today. We had phases where we played well, but other phases we played very badly. The big problem was that we made a lot of mistakes in passing and that doesn’t allow you to keep the ball and have control of the game.”
The Men of Steel had slowly grown into the game and Gurpreet was repeatedly called into action in quick succession, first to deny a deflected shot from Mobasir Rehman and then to keep out a spectacular bicycle kick from Farukh Choudhary. On a day when the outfield players struggled due to a combination of fatigue, excessive humidity and ludicrous mediocrity, the goalkeepers stood tall to save either side of any blushes. And Pal had the last say in it as fifteen minutes from time, he came up with his best save of the night to deny substitute Ashique Kuruniyan a splendid solo goal after the Bengaluru left-back had outfoxed Robin Gurung and found himself in a one-on-one situation with Jamshedpur’s 32-year-old goalkeeper.
Bengaluru FC finished the night with 14 shots, nine of them on target and yet, Cuadrat’s side will go back with nothing to show for their efforts. For all of Bengaluru’s tactical acumen and technical proficiency, they have been consistently second-best in the final third over 270 minutes of play. Forget being clinical when presented with clear-cut chances, the defending champions have also struggled to hold up the ball and utilize the inside channels to attack on repeated occasions.
The departure of Miku, through whom Bengaluru’s most offensive ploys functioned, has handed the club a severe blow and Manuel Onwu has failed to fill those shoes. On Sunday, the Spanish forward attempted four shots, completed a mere nine passes and had just 18 touches on the ball, but did not create any discomfort in the Jamshedpur defence whatsoever. His subdued performance and failure to link-up with Sunil Chhetri meant the Indian international had to often drop down to facilitate the progression of the ball.
Chhetri’s form and inability to get into goalscoring positions would worry Cuadrat, for the Indian skipper’s nine goals in last edition were key to Bengaluru’s battering ram of an attack. Not only have the goals dried up this season, but Chhetri has floundered opportunities to influence the match, struggling to find his rhythm.
Also surprising has been Bengaluru FC’s intent on crossing the ball into the final third – they attempted 18 crosses against Jamshedpur, bringing their tally to 45 after just three games, a significant increase from their average of 9.6 crosses per game last season. On the complementary spectrum, their shot count has suffered significantly, Cuadrat’s side sitting in the seventh position with just 33 shots so far, compared to their last night’s opposition’s 49 shots in as many games.
"We created a lot of chances, but the team is not the same. We lost many crucial players, and this affects the result. This happens all over the world, with every club,” Cuadrat opined following the stalemate but refused to acknowledge any cause of concern, adding, “We are looking very steady and giving tough competition. We should not feel the pressure of getting the first victory, we have to keep working the way we are, and the wins will come.”
Updated Date: Nov 04, 2019 10:42:21 IST