The Bengaluru FC head coach heaped praise upon the travelling fans.

Alan Costa’s late heroics helped Simon Grayson’s Bengaluru FC triumph over NorthEast United. The sight of the Brazilian centre-back reeling away in celebration after burying a header late, bore glaring similarities to when these two sides met back in October.

BFC emerged victorious by two goals to one in a hard-fought contest. The Blues’ mercurial Sivasakthi Narayanan opened the scoring with his first Indian Super League goal, an audacious poke from range that flew into the top corner. Romain Philippoteaux then equalized for NorthEast United with an under-the-wall free-kick, before Costa sealed the game with late heroics once again. Simon Grayson addressed the media, following his team’s fourth win of the season.

Here’s what he said.

Analysis of the victory

Alan Costa’s goal separated the two sides once more, but two goals from nine shots on target meant that it was an uphill task for Bengaluru. Northeast fielded two new-comers in their backline, namely Alex Saji and Hira Mondal, with the latter being on Bengaluru’s books when these two sides last met.

Grayson spoke of the positives from the display, “I thought we played well tonight. We were good in possession and got into good areas. Probably at some times, it summed up our season. We got into the final attacking area and made the wrong decision or did not have the composure to get a good cross or a final pass. Having (Javi) Hernandez at places where he had 3-4 chances to shoot with his left. Gotta be more ruthless and clinical. But it was a game we deserved to win. We made it very difficult for ourselves and would have been hugely disappointed if we hadn’t won the game tonight.”

Still not ruthless enough in front of goal

With just 13 points and 10 goals to show for this season in 13 matches, BFC have been found lacking offensively. Simon Grayson delved into the reasons behind the lean run in front of goal, “We’ve just struggled in the final third. We’ve got some good names on paper at the top end of the pitch and they haven’t shown the composure and quality they’ve got, the decision-making as well. You look at the teams that are at the top, they’ve been ruthless in the final third.

He added, “The structure of our team is good. We look defensively sound but we’ve made a few mistakes and that’s just football. It’s the top end of the pitch where we need to be better with better decision-making and quality. We’ve not had much luck. You look at Sunil (Chhetri) tonight and how he’s missed that header. He’s made great contact with his head, it’s hit the keeper on the line and gone out. He had one chance last week against East Bengal as well. So, a bit of luck and some composure in the final third (is needed).”

NorthEast are a different challenge under Alberto Annese

The last time the two sides met at the Kanteerava, Marco Balbul was in charge of NorthEast. Grayson mentioned how Annese’s set-up makes them hard to beat, “I’ve been watching the last few games, and they make it difficult for you. They get the 4-5-1 and they hit you on the counter-attack. They do that well. There’s nothing wrong with hitting you on the counter if you’ve got pace in your team and good wingers, which they have.

“We had to be wary of the quality they have in their team. They’ve not had the fortune of breaks going their way or whatever. We were certainly not treating this game lightly. We weren’t in a great run and needed to make sure we come out on the top,” he asserted.

Conservative approach to the game

BFC started the game with their customary 3-4-1-2, with Naorem Roshan Singh and Prabir Das pushing up the pitch and providing width. Simon Grayson made some brave calls and was happy with how things panned out, “We knew we have to play well defensively and out of possession. We’ve got to make sure we’re confident and ask questions to the opposition, regardless of who we’re playing. That’s what we try to do and that has let us down in a game again tonight, where we made hard work of it. With 60% of possession and loads of shots, we weren’t ruthless enough and that’s probably where we’ve been all season.”

The boisterous travelling Blues

A decent chunk of the travelling West Block Blues made their voices heard at the Indira Gandhi Athletic Stadium. Grayson was grateful for the support that motivated his players beyond the line, “Definitely. This is a long way from Bengaluru and fantastic to see the number of supporters we had. To be fair, everyone were expecting to see nobody. But it’s great. The victory is a joint victory for us as a staff and ultimately for the supporters who have made the long journey, and the ones back home watching. We haven’t won as many matches we would have liked, but there’s still games left to win. We have to try and win every game until the season finishes.”

Plan moving forward this season

With seven matches left till the end of the season and five of those at home, BFC will aim to finish the season on a high. Simon Grayson spoke of the road ahead and the injury issues he had to deal with against NorthEast, “Get back home. Get to training on Monday-Tuesday, Wednesday off, and then Thursday-Friday. We have to prepare right, recover right and get the right amount of time on the training pitch to face a tough team in Odisha, whom we play next week.

“Players have come into the team tonight and done really well, those that probably were not expecting to be starting. Young Siva and Rohit (Kumar) as well. Making tough decisions to leave experienced players out. We’re missing Pablo (Perez) through injury and (Namgyal) Bhutia had a virus the last few games. But it’s a squad game, you have to make tough decisions to win for everybody,” he concluded.

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