The Blues exited from Asia after their defeat against the Signalmen.
Bengaluru FC bade goodbye to AFC Cup dreams as they lost 2-0 to Turkmenistan side Altyn Asyr in the second leg on Wednesday evening. The tie ended 5-2 over both legs, with Asyr outplaying Bengaluru in the second leg at home. The Blues have had their positives, but their Asian journey for 2018 comes to an end with another semi-final appearance. Altymyrat Annadurdyýew and Wahyt Orazsähedow scored second-half goals to take Asyr to the Interzonal finals.
The signs, and the beginning were right. Bengaluru FC started with a smart, fluid 4-3-3 with both Erik Paartalu and Harmanjot Singh Khabra taking extra care of the back four. The positional liquidity helped Bengaluru in the first half, but their composure and calm stayed for longer than desired.
The Blues were not awarded a penalty in the 39th minute, when captain Sunil Chhetri was brought down in the opposition box, but other than that, there was hardly a move to mention in the first 45. The second, meanwhile, was taken by the home side. All Bengaluru did and could do, realistically, was run, chase, and try. They did try and hard, but did not really trouble the opposition defence.
Watch: Altyn Asyr 2-0 Bengaluru FC highlights
The best chance came in the 61st minute, when Juanan crossed the ball for Erik Paartalu, who’s header was saved. Notably, both players from the defensive crux of the side. Are they being asked too much to do?
If Carles Cuadrat’s new side wants to win things, they need to shed the attitude of a reactive approach, and delve more into proactiveness. That has not been the case in the two legs of the AFC Asian Interzonal semi-finals, and that has seen the Indian Super Cup winners bade goodbye to Asia for at least the next season.
There were positives in the game, undoubtedly so. The matured positional sensibility shown by Khabra and Paartalu (who has been regularly good) will be a positive for Cuadrat in the upcoming season. Nishu Kumar’s fluent shift from left back to left centre-back in a back three was also a coming of age for the 20-year-old, who’s growing in stature at the club.
Talking about Khabra, who’s mostly played at right-back in the last two seasons, the No. 10 started in a midfield of three, and covered for Rahul Bheke whenever the centre-back drifted wide with the Asyr forward. That will help Bengaluru against sides like Chennaiyin FC, as John Gregory is known for training sides and forwards with positional lucidity and adaptability.
Another positive was the team’s transformation from 4-3-3 to 3-4-3 in the second half, but that did not help much. It would, certainly, in the future, as Cuadrat would like his side to be fluid.
In a loss, there must be negatives/loopholes, and there were aplenty as Bengaluru lost their track to trounce the Turkmen club in the second leg.
The first one that comes to mind is a reactive approach. Bengaluru, in both legs, went on full throttle to score only after conceding. That needs to change. The full-backs stormed ahead in the first half as well, and Nishu Kumar tried an overhead kick in the box on one occasion, but that was too far and few between.
In the first leg at the Sree Kanteerava, the side woke up in the second half and scored twice to make the scoreline 3-2 that gave them something to play for in the second leg.
The side, though, is looking for too much from the troika of Miku-Sunil Chhetri-Udanta Singh. While the three have proven to be a handful in India already, they must be helped with better supply and more numbers in Asian competitions. Erik Paartalu, a presence, sits too back on the pitch for defensive solidarity and Xisco looks like a transitioner who plays freely only when space is accorded to him.
Thus, the bench of Kean Lewis and Boithang Haokip will time and again need to make exclusive contributions to change the status of games. The team, collectively, needs to find its goalscoring boots soon, as the goals in the first leg were scored by defenders Erik Paartalu and Rahul Bheke.
While the side looks good enough for the Indian Super League and the challenges presented by the league, they need more link-up play, creativity and killing elements to ensure their domination of the past. Chennaiyin FC should learn from the mistakes made by Bengaluru, if they’re to leave a mark in their maiden AFC Cup journey.