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I've never been critical of referees, claims BFC coach Simon Grayson

Published at :October 9, 2022 at 6:01 AM
Modified at :December 13, 2023 at 1:01 PM
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(Courtesy : ISL Media)

Riddhiman Sarkar

The manager praised the energetic fans and his side’s determination on the night.

Bengaluru FC defeated NorthEast United FC 1-0 in the Indian Super League 2022-23 season at the Shree Kanteerava Stadium on Saturday. Alan Costa scored the only goal of the game as NorthEast United were frustrated by the Blues’ dogged defending. Highlanders' coach Marco Balbul was sent off for complaining about the referee’s decision to disallow Gaztanaga’s stoppage-time equaliser. The game ended in favour of Bengaluru FC as the limelight shifted to decision-making in the league. Simon Grayson attended the post-match press conference to discuss his side’s performance.

Here’s what the Bengaluru FC coach said.

Thoughts on the first game in front of supporters after two years

After a two-year-long hiatus, the Blues were reunited with their fanbase which is one of the most energetic and vocal ones in India. The West Block Blues are renowned for their Viking chants and massive uproars and fabricate a frightening atmosphere for any team to tread into. Speaking about their role and what kind of a game it was for his side, this is what the English head coach said: 

“(The game was) Eventful, tiring, exhausting which we probably expected. Great atmosphere from our supporters. Yeah, it had everything; the game. There was no shortage of entertainment, incidents, opportunities. Personally, as a coach I would like an easier game (chuckles); a little bit easier of a ride. But yeah, good game.” 

He added, “I thought we started the game really well and created some good chances. (We) missed a couple of decent chances that you would normally expect us to score. But NorthEast looked a good team. (They) hit us on the counter-attack quite a few times, and kept asking questions but I think our supporters got us through the game. Last ten minutes, the roar came up again from them all. We got the goal and then we were thinking that we conceded again. We had a little bit of luck but we’re delighted that we won for the first time back in the stadium, in front of the home supporters.”

On Sivasakthi’s performance 

Sivasakthi Narayan recently broke through to Bengaluru’s first team after impressing massively in the Next Gen Cup 2022. The striker scored twice in the campaign. Moreover, he continued his purple patch into this season’s Durand Cup, netting five goals. Simon Grayson had little to explain about his selection and spoke about how much promise Chhetri and Krishna’s understudy has. He also added a word of praise for the other youngsters on the roster while doing so. 

“He (Sivasakthi) is lively and he’s earned the right to play today. Because of his performances in the Durand Cup, his goals, his application in training, the biggest surprise was that he didn’t score the couple of opportunities that he had today. Because he's a threat, he knows where the goal is. If he gets into those positions he scores more goals than misses. I think he gives us something different than the more experienced players as in Sunil (Chhetri) and Roy (Krishna) at the top end of the pitch. I’m really delighted with his performance.”

“I thought we had some good performances from the younger players. I think Roshan (in the) first half was unplayable. He tied the right-back into knots at times and we all know he’s capable of doing that. So overall, I'm pleased with both the younger and experienced players. I'm impressed that the lads got the three points in the first home game of the season,” the 52-year-old praised.

Also Read: Player Ratings: Bengaluru FC vs NorthEast United

On Sunil Chhetri’s starting as a hole player

Simon Grayson tweaked and tinkered with his side a considerable bit as he started three at the back and employed wingbacks in wide midfield roles. Although Roshan and Prabir are used to plying their trades in such positions, Chhetri was part of an experiment. The Indian captain was deployed in a supporting role behind Sivasakthi and Roy Krishna. Bengaluru’s head coach proceeded to elaborate on the thought process behind the same. 

“We started the game with Sivasakthi and Roy (Krishna) up front with Sunil (Chhetri) playing as a (number) 10 because we’ve done that quite a bit in pre-season. Javi’s (Hernandez) only joined back in training this week after being out for around four or five weeks. So he wasn’t really fit to start. But you want your best players on the pitch so you can create good opportunities and hopefully take chances.”

“So, tonight we played that system. We changed the system midway through the second-half. We went to a 4-4-2 and brought different personnel on to try something out of the game and win it. Sunil plays a little deeper off Siva. As I said before, Siva gives us something different with his running and pace over the top. These two (Krishna and Chhetri) are a little bit more clever and probably the years are catching up a little bit. But they still know where the back of the net is and how the game should be played,” explained the tactician.

On the defensive mantra in the second half

While the game was much more open in the second half, the Blues managed to defend as a resolute unit. The likes of Roshan Singh, Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, and Prabir Das put their heart and soul into keeping the clean sheet. Simon Grayson gave us his thoughts on what exactly he wanted his players to carry out in the second half given the way the Highlanders were threatening. 

“I think the longer the game went without us scoring, the more vulnerable we became. We started off really well but then we pushed bodies forward to try and get the first goal and settle us down. By doing that you leave yourself vulnerable to counter attacks which they carried out very well.

"They have some pacey players who can ask questions. But we kept the clean sheet and that’s all that matters. We didn't know a lot about them since they have a new coach and new players. I thought NorthEast (United) impressed a lot of people tonight and gave us a really tough game,” claimed Grayson. 

On referees and decision-making in the league

After a more-or-less fair game yesterday, the Bengaluru and NorthEast United tie had some drama in it. After Gaztanaga’s goal got disallowed, the players and coach (of NorthEast United) raced up to the referees in protest. Consequently, Marco Balbul got sent off for dissent. Commenting on the same, Simon Grayson voiced out support in favour of the decision-making while suggesting that improvement should be prioritised as well.

“I think in terms of referees, they make good decisions and bad decisions and that’s how they’re all alike. I’m pretty sure the NorthEast coach and manager would be complaining about the decision. But there was a reason behind the goal being disallowed. Sometimes these things happen and you don’t get the break. So, I'm not seeing what people would be talking about,” he commented.

“I think there’s room for involvement which the league are looking towards to help them along the way. I’ve never been critical of referees. Even back in the UK, it's a tough, tough job to do. I do it sometimes in training, but would I do it as a full-time job? Not a chance (smiles), ” the mentor concluded.




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