The Englishman showered praise on the sensational Sivasakthi Narayanan.

Bengaluru FC ended the league stages on a dominant note, notching up their eighth straight win to consolidate their position at third on the league table. Simon Grayson’s Blues defeated FC Goa 3-1 through Sivasakthi’s brace and Pablo Perez added in the third in the 81st minute.

FC Goa’s playoffs hopes were dented completely following this result. Bengaluru FC will hope for either ATK Mohun Bagan or Kerala Blasters to drop points to ensure a home eliminator fixture.

Simon Grayson spoke to the media following his side’s victory. Edited excerpts are as follows.

Changing to a back-four

Bengaluru FC took the lead through Sivasakthi but Iker Guarrotxena equalized for the Gaurs. After half-time, Simon Grayson changed the formation from 3-5-2 to 4-3-3. He reasoned saying, “When I look back at the game, it’s the worst we’ve played especially in the first half. We gave the ball away far too cheaply, and allowed a good team like Goa too many opportunities and set-pieces. It was inevitable when they equalized to be fair.

“I was contemplating changing at half-time because we need to keep the ball better but we stuck with what we did. We needed to be a little more solid and stop them from getting 2 vs 1 in the outsides. We’ve changed to a 4-3-3 this season sometimes so the players know what they are doing and good to see the second and third ones go in. You do have sympathy for Goa (with the offside goal), but that’s what football is all about.

Half-time team talk

Simon Grayson was honest in admitting that the first half was not up to the team’s standards. On being asked what was said to his players at half time the Englishman answered, “The half-time talk was not over-aggressive but certainly made the players realize that we were nowhere near the levels that I expect and what they expect as well.

“I didn’t think we worked hard enough to close people down and dropped too deep. A lot of things we had done well we didn’t do well tonight. A lot of it goes down to the inexperience of players playing in different positions. Full credit to the players that we kept going and got the result.

Siva’s vital contribution to the win

Sivasakthi Narayanan has now scored 6 goals from 17 appearances in the ISL, an outstanding output in the 22-year-old’s debut season. Simon Grayson heaped praise on his striker, “We all know about Siva, he’s a goalscorer and always on the move. Nobody would have expected Siva to score the first goal with a header, but it’s a good delivery and he is always on the move.

“Always expecting the ball to land in and around him and that’s what the kid does, he works hard. He wants to do extra and got his just rewards today. We’ve got strength and depth and I can bring people like Pablo Perez off the bench, Udanta Singh, and Jayesh Rane shows you where we are as a team. We’ve got everybody available apart from Alan Costa and the strength and depth is the biggest thing. We win together as a squad and we lose together as a squad. That’s what it will be.

Entering the playoffs with good momentum

It has been a stupendous overturn in form from Bengaluru FC from sitting as low as ninth before the halfway mark to waltzing into the playoffs in style. Grayson spoke of the fine margins between being confident and overconfident, “We’d rather won 8 than lost 8. There’s a fine line between confident and overconfident. The level of humbleness and level-headedness will come from me.

“We’ll do a recovery day tomorrow, whoever we play whenever we play and have the same attitude that will get us to where we are now. The message to the dressing room is we have to be better than the previous game. We’ve won eight games, the Durand Cup and that’s all. If we want to win anything, we need to win a few more games. We have not achieved anything. I’m delighted where we are, but you are judged on how you win things and we are in it to win it.”

Players accept criticism and strive to become better

In a press conference following a 4-0 defeat to eventual Shield Winners Mumbai City FC, Simon Grayson called his players out for not performing upto their capabilities. The coach talked about how his players accept criticism and his lofty standards, “They accept criticism. The players took it (criticism after Mumbai defeat) and they responded.

“We went to Goa and won 2-0. I throw things at players even in training and I want it thrown back in my face because I have high standards. I don’t stay in football for this length of time without having high demands and wanting the players to get better all the time.

“I’ll put them back into place to be level-headed again if they come in with a swagger and arrogance. I expect them to come into training with confidence and belief, and there is a fine line.”

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