The Bengaluru gaffer said that there is a long way to go, while his counterpart, again, expressed his frustration over poor refeering decisions.
The much-anticipated South India derby lived up to its expectations as visitors Bengaluru FC got the better off Kerala Blasters in a closely contested match at Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, Kochi.
Bengaluru FC broke the stalemate in the 17th minute of the game as Sunil Chhetri slotted the ball past Naveen Kumar. However, replays showed that the Indian skipper was offside. Nevertheless, the hosts restored parity in the 30th penalty as Slavisa Stojanovic converted from spot-kick, which was awarded after Nishu Kumar brought Sahal down inside the box.
Both sides played for a victory in the second half and it was Bengaluru FC, who had the final laugh as Nikola Krcmarevic’s own goal helped them take the lead. With this victory, they go to the top of the table, while Kerala Blasters are sixth.
After the match, Kerala Blasters’ David James and Bengaluru FC gaffer Carles Cuadrat met the media in Kochi.
James was asked how it felt to lose the game against Bengaluru and his opinion on their performance at Kochi. He said, “I can’t start blaming individuals for what seems to be a collective problem. In the Pune game, some decisions did not go our way. I was amazed that it was not given offside. These things happen. It’s becoming increasingly difficult. In four matches out of six, decisions have not gone our way.
“When you play against a side of like Bengaluru, you know you have to work hard, and you start off with a goal given to them. I can’t even apologise to the players. It is becoming increasingly difficult. Not individual faults, I wouldn’t say anyone should have done better,” he added.
James also said that some of their players had picked up injuries during the game. He said, “Two teams desperately trying to beat each other in a way the match should be. Again, Bengaluru FC are a very good side, and we played very well. We picked a couple of quick injuries and the game was drifting away from us.”
James also spoke in supportive of the VAR. He said, “If you are trying to attract quality players, they want to be playing quality leagues. It is not that every decision will be right, I am not asking for that. I am asking for is some kind of help, if the standard of the referee is not the standard of football. VAR in the elite league, you could argue that it slows down the game. 6 games and in 4 games we are unlucky because decisions didn’t go our way.”
Rene Meulensteen was sacked midway through last season after Kerala lost against Bengaluru FC on the new year eve. When asked if the form was a concern. James said, “Not so. I think 5 games unbeaten which is a very good start to the season. We are contesting a 2-1 defeat against the ISL best side last season. Things are very difficult. When you are preparing and something goes against you, which is not in our control. In 6 games, there were 4 games, where decisions cost us points. VAR was a solution, it helps referees make clear decisions.”
“A do-or-die match, that was not. I’m confident that we can do that. Just keep the confidence in players. They are working to get points.” the coach added.
Meanwhile, Cuadrat said that he was happy with his players, who put up a great fight to earn all three points from Kochi. “I am very happy with the players, they are doing a wonderful job. I have to say, as a coach, you see these kinds of things, you have to be satisfied.”
“We should not talk so much about referees. That put them in pressure. All world class teams over the world have been demanding something about referees. Bengaluru, Barcelona, Real Madrid and all team. I understand the situation in Kerala, I respect that.” the coach said when asked about the refereeing errors.
Xisco came off the bench in the second half and replaced Juanan. When asked what the motive behind such a move was, the coach said, “Yes [It was tacticial]. We have talented players on the bench, we asked them to help us in some moments of the game. So, We decided to sub a central defender[Juanan], because he showed some sickness.”
“Nothing is done. We have to go to the play-off. There is a long way to go. We have six games after the break. That is demanding us a lot of energy. I am happy with the players. Sometimes, the dynamic is breaking, because we are going to miss some players to national teams.” said the coach.
He also said playing away or home doesn’t make much difference. He said, “Honestly, there is no big difference in playing home or away. Jamshedpur was a very good lesson for us, getting a goal in the 93rd minute. Because of that, we don’t have 15 points now. That was a punishment.”