ISL 2019-20: Midfield mediocrity, poor offensive play take sheen off FC Goa-Bengaluru FC match as teams play scrappy draw

For two of the most technically astute teams in the league with a penchant for playing expansive, attractive football, it is surprising to see how both these clubs fail to showcase their best when they play each other.

Sreya Mazumder October 29, 2019 10:42:21 IST
ISL 2019-20: Midfield mediocrity, poor offensive play take sheen off FC Goa-Bengaluru FC match as teams play scrappy draw
  • The defending champions came into the game on the back of a goalless draw against NorthEast United.

  • Udanta Singh's lively presence on the right flank had Goa on the backfoot throughout the match.

  • Corominas converted the penalty, helping Goa to a point which they probably did not deserve but which sealed their spot at the top of the table after two rounds.

A cagey affair, some late drama, a goal minutes away from full-time which broke the heart of one set of fans – Monday’s encounter between FC Goa and Bengaluru FC was in many ways reminiscent of the Indian Super League (ISL) final these two clubs played just 225 days ago. This time, however, spoils were shared as a stoppage-time penalty from Ferran Corominas cancelled out the meagre lead which Bengaluru FC had taken through Udanta Singh in the second half.

The defending champions came into the game on the back of a goalless draw against NorthEast United — a draw which had raised quite a few questions regarding their lack of precision in the final third and Carles Cuadrat’s side did not do much to assuage those fears in their second match either. There were no changes in personnel for the 51-year-old who celebrated his birthday on the eve of the tie.

FC Goa had begun their ISL campaign with a thumping 3-0 win over Chennaiyin FC, resuming from where they left last season when they finished as the league’s top scorers. Sergio Lobera has managed to instil his philosophy exceptionally well since taking over from Zico in 2017, leading the Gaurs to two consecutive playoffs, this time hoping to bag the elusive title. The Gaurs made just one change from their win over Chennaiyin, Ahmed Jahouh who had seen a red card during last season’s final coming in for Jackichand Singh.

The visitors did begin with a spring in their step, but it did not take the Gaurs much time to stifle Bengaluru’s attempt at a fluid style of play. For two of the most technically astute teams in the league with a penchant for playing expansive, attractive football, it is surprising to see how both these clubs fail to showcase their best when they play each other. While the scrappy nature of last edition’s final could have been attributed to nerves and the sheer sense of self-preservation for the championship was on the line, there can be no excuses for not playing their natural game in a league fixture so early into the season.

Bengaluru FC got their tactics spot on in holding off Goa’s offensive threat, but they could not create much on the opposite end either – lacking the perfect ball in the final third. Bengaluru FC’s best chance of the first half came through a Dimas Delgado free-kick which had evaded everyone but was eventually cleared by Seiminlen Doungel. It was a drab display from both teams as the first half not only ended goalless, but also without a single shot on target from either club.

It was more of the same in the second-half as even the enthusiastic 17000-strong crowd started to lose their voice. Forget any risk-taking from any of the players, the dearth of tempo in the midfield and a distinct absence of quality in the passes sprayed around the park all but marred the enjoyable quotient of the game. With mediocrity all around, even a mild moment of inspiration would have been enough to break the deadlock. And that is what Udanta Singh provided in the 62nd minute.

The Indian international had attempted the most shots for the visitors, his tally of 3 shots matched only by Doungel from the Gaurs. Singh’s lively presence on the right flank had Goa on the backfoot throughout the match and it was his presence of mind which gave Bengaluru the breakthrough. Manuel Onwu had flicked a Gurpreet Singh Sandhu goalkick up-field and Singh managed to latch on to the ball ahead of Gaurs’ centre-half Serigne Mourtada Fall, ably controlling it before slotting in a composed finish past Mohammad Nawaz who had not been called into any action until then.

With less than thirty minutes left to play and Lobera’s side completely failing to create any sort of opportunities, it looked like Bengaluru FC were about to nick crucial three points away from home. Fall did come close to rectifying his error by finding himself some space in the visitors’ box, but his header was just wide and the Gaurs’ frustration grew as the game progressed. As the game opened up, Bengaluru almost got themselves a second goal with Singh playing in a perfectly weighted ball for Sunil Chhetri at the far post, only for Seriton Fernandes to clear it at the last moment.

Goa’s night was not over yet as Muhammad Ashique Kuruniyan brought the hosts back into the game with a silly tackle on Corominas in the stoppage time after trying to showboat his way out of the back and losing possession. Goa’s all-time top scorer did not make any mistake in converting the penalty, helping Goa to a point which they probably did not deserve but which sealed their spot at the top of the table after two rounds.

“I think that today we managed the game well. I think sometimes with Goa, it’s 50-50. We were really managing the game well and not letting them create chances. So, happy with the work of the team. Happy with heart of my players. But not happy with the result because I think we really deserved the three points,” Carlos Cuedrat opined following the game, emphasising on the creation of chances and asserting how he is not worried by Bengaluru’s inability to kill games.

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