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East Bengal Vs Bengaluru FC: A tactical duel on display

Written by: Punit Tripathi

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The reigning champions flattered to deceive as the Reds and Golds came from behind to win...

In one of the biggest matches of the I-league season so far, Bengaluru FC faced East Bengal at the Barasat Stadium. This match was billed to be one of the most intriguing tactical battles of the season and the gameplay suggested just that.

Playing a counter-attacking style, both teams played a defensive game and depended on momentary creative exploits to get the three points. East Bengal won the tie 2-1.

Undefeated till this point in the league, BFC were touted to be the favorites against the Trevor Morgan side. The teams were slow off the blocks and Bengaluru FC dominated the initial proceedings, controlling the tempo of the game with some slick passing and ball possession. Deservingly, the Blues got the first goal with a brilliant team move, CK Vineeth finishing the chance with ease, thus becoming the league's top scorer. East Bengal came back into the game with a goal from eventual Man of the Match Ivan Bukenya finishing a move from a corner-kick straight of the training ground.

The Albert Roca side slowly started faltering as time passed on, with some basic disciplinary issues, even from captain Sunil Chhetri. Playing with a 3-man backline, BFC gave a lot of space to East Bengal in between the lines, but were clearly dominant on the ball. With Eugeneson Lyngdoh not provided any space from the ever-enterprising Mehtab Hussain, a lot of attacking impetus and creativity were provided by Chhetri dropping deep to find the hard-working pair of Udanta Singh and Vineeth. The typical cohesiveness in attack shown by Bengaluru FC in the previous games was somewhat missing.

Trevor Morgan, on the other hand, was the coach under pressure. In his second stint as the EB coach, the experienced Englishman was spot on with his team selection. Morgan crowded his midfield with Nikhil Poojary and Lalrindika Ralte in a more centralized role, opting for a 4-3-3 formation which saw Bengaluru losing control in the midfield and thus, unable to stamp their dominance over the game. Ivan Bukenya was absolute top order throughout the game, nullifying attacks at will. He was well supported by goalkeeper TP Rehenesh under the bar, who made a series of good saves.

The introduction of Robin Singh in the second half was a gamble, which ultimately paid off for the home side. East Bengal saw the fierce side of the 6’4” striker, who was once touted to be the next big thing in Indian football. Having a forgettable 2016 with both Bengaluru FC and FC Goa, Robin Singh showed what he’s capable of in one of his best displays in recent times. The striker kept the goalkeeper and opposition defenders at bay, scoring the winning goal in the final minutes of regulation play. The striker had come close to scoring on two other occasions, proving his credentials to his coach and strengthening calls for a place in the starting XI.

The match showcased disciplined zonal defending from East Bengal. The players had done their homework pretty well and knew the abilities of their opposition. Bengaluru FC, on the other hand, would look to have better crosses from their hard-working full-back Harmanjot Singh Khabra, who has made the right wing his own with some inspired displays. The former East Bengal player must pull up his socks in deliveries into the box, which were poor against East Bengal.

The match will be seen as one of the major tactical displays both on the field and from the touchline in recent times. The players applied themselves well and also saw the coaches trying to dislodge the opposition strategically. Both teams would’ve been happy with a point each, but the home side would surely be the happier after getting three points against the reigning champions.

 

Published: Mon Jan 23, 2017 11:09 AM IST

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