DSK Shivajians and Bengaluru FC played out a 2-2 draw full of action and drama in Pune…

The home team had taken a two goal lead thanks to Holicharan Narzary and had managed to outplay the defending champions for most part of the game but a late comeback spearheaded by Sunil Chhetri and Cameron Watson helped the struggling visitors restore parity and walk away with a point from an exciting encounter. The bar was struck over 6 times during the game, as both teams played free-flowing attacking football. 

Speaking to the media after the game, Bengaluru’s Spanish head coach Albert Roca felt his side got lucky to not lose their fourth game in a row. “After three losses, it was difficult for us, along with the injuries we have, it was complicated. DSK have a good team. For a long period of time, they deserved to win today.”

The Blues had come on the back of a heartbreakingly-close loss in the AFC Champions League qualifiers, in Jordan against Al Wehdat, but Roca clarified he was aware that all games are tough in this league. “We’ve had tough games before too. It’s painful to know that we won’t play more games (in the Champions League). We knew it would be a tough game today, too. In the first half, we conceded too many chances, then in the second half we played quite good football even with DSK defending, but it was not enough. We did not deserve victory for sure.”

Defender John Johnson, who has been a rock at the back for Bengaluru since it’s very inception was missing from action today, as he serves a suspension for his red card in the game against Churchill Brothers. “John Johnson is a very important player for us. He has a red card so he’ll be out for a period of time. We have other players who are also coming back from injury but we played 90 minutes and scored. We have a squad and we have to make use of everyone.”

The 54-year-old head coach also updated everyone on the situation with Sandesh Jhingan, the defender who has hardly got game time since joining the Karnataka club. “He (Jhingan) is in a stage where he’s ready for the next game. He’s coming from the Indian Super League, which is a very tiring championship. He had a muscle injury and was recovering from that. We’ll need him now for sure since we have 5-6 injuries in defence,” he concluded.

The home team coach, Dave Rogers, was a bit more disappointed with the result, but proud nonetheless of his side’s performance. The Englishman commented, “We threw away three points against the champions. But, I am so proud of my players because for 75 minutes, we’ve outplayed the champions. We should’ve been 3 nil with a bit more luck.”

He continued, “Decision-making in stoppage time has cost us three points again but that’s football, and you have to learn from it. We aren’t winning football games like we should be, but we learn from it. It’s sickening again, cause it feels like a defeat conceding so late in the game. We move on, we are progressing nicely as a football club, we take one game at a time and encourage our players to play the right way.”

When enquired about what went went wrong in the last stretch of the game, the 41-year-old opined, “Concentration. That’s the only thing that cost us the two goals we’ve conceded, a little lack of concentration. We’ve attacked going for the third goal, and Sanju got caught in a position where if Quero plays the ball he’s in, but we still had enough (players) behind not to concede. Subrata, in the 90th minute, he makes a decision to come for a ball he shouldn’t have and he knows that. If Subrata stays in goal, we don’t concede and win the match. For his first game back in the team, he was outstanding. It’s just a little lack of concentration, but again, I’m proud of my players.”

Nirmal Chettri has been in fantastic form on the right side of defence for DSK. After minimalising the threat of wingers like Sony Norde, Chettri successfully halted the charge of Sunil Chhetri last night. The DSK gaffer was pleased with the 26-year-old’s game, stating, “Nirmal Chettri, in the first half showed me, and I told him this, that if he wants to play for the Indian national team and if he keeps performing the way he does, then he’ll be knocking on Stephen Constantine’s door. He’s a great professional. Sunil Chhetri never got a kick of the ball, even for 60-65 minutes. Nirmal just got a bang in the knee, that’s why we got Sanju in.” 

DSK Shivajians now play their next home game a month later, as they travel the country to play multiple away matches over the next month. Rogers was less than happy with the scheduling, speaking out against the committee responsible for the same. The Englishman said, “Who is the guy who brought out these fixtures, not just for me, but for every I-League team? I’ve never in my life had teams having to travel for 4 or 5 away games (in a row). It doesn’t make sense. I’d like to know who the bright spark is, who’s come out with this. Not just me, other coaches I speak too, to (have a problem with this). Give us some answers and tell us why we have to play 4-5 away games. Players need to rest and recover but we have to get on airplanes and travel at stupid hours. We have to be prepared for this, and we’ll be good.” 

He signed off, saying, “With a little bit more luck, we’ll get more points on the table.”

DSK Shivajians play their next game against Shillong Lajong, while Bengaluru entertain Minerva Punjab FC at home.