Can Udanta Singh help Bengaluru in their bid for the 2018-19 ISL title against FC Goa?
Written by: Neelav Chakravarti
The right winger has scored five goals this season.
The Indian Super League 2018-19 finale beckons us all!!
With Bengaluru FC set to face FC Goa at Mumbai Football Arena on 17th March 2019, the match is expected to be a full-blown attacking affair, with both the sides boasting goalscorers of the likes of Nicolas Flores (Miku) and Ferran Corominas (Coro). It is worth noting that the Gaurs scored the most goals during league phase, registering 36 times. Meanwhile, the Blues have notched 29 goals in that period.
The Blues have come a long way since that ill-fated night, when Chennaiyin FC edged past them in the previous edition’s final. Just like last season, the former I-League side have dominated during the league stage, but in terms of tactics, they have changed a lot. With Carles Cuadrat having come at the helm, Bengaluru have become an unpredictable team; going into every match with a 'never give up' attitude, they have adapted in almost every condition. The likes of Miku, Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, and Sunil Chhetri have improved their game, but the most brushed player has been Udanta Singh. The youngster has played an important role this season, with his side going into the title-deciding clash.
The 22-year-old has seen a drastic improvement in him as a footballer, with his gaffer and teammates taking some of the credit. Some players improve due to their teammates too, and it is true in Udanta’s case. The youngster has build a good connection with Sunil Chhetri and the rest of the team, which includes defenders also.
Last season, it was just pace. This season, the Manipur native has bought in many other essentials to his kitty. He has matured a lot too, since losing to the Marina Machans in the final. Nicknamed “The Flash”, he is not just a player who relies on his speed and acceleration nowadays. Compared to other Indian players who are much more older and experienced to him, Udanta can keep the ball with him when facing opposition defenders. Unlike the other players from his generation, he plays a crucial part in his side’s tempo in the final third, when on the field for Bengaluru and India.
The winger has improved his displays in the final third
Last season, the Tata Football Academy product scored one goal in 19 ISL outings and registered seven assists. This season, he has included one necessity in his trade which is more goals. He has scored five times in 18 appearances, and has notched three assists. Let’s not forget that last season, he finished second in the assists chart, and this season he is in the top 10 list in terms of goals scored.
Although he had a poor start to this season, where his performances were criticised a lot; what really stood out was his maturity during that time. For a player of his age, it is normal to let the criticism and pressure creep into your morale. But Udanta grasped that pressure, and went a notch higher! In India’s AFC Asian Cup campaign, he was undoubtedly one of the stars, and has already become the undisputed starter on the right flank, pushing Jackichand Singh down the order. Let’s not forget that Jackichand is having an excellent season for Sergio Lobera's side this time, but Udanta’s sheer brilliance and effort puts him at a higher perch than the former Royal Wahingdoh winger.
Infact, Udanta’s ability to hold onto the ball at the final third via his twists and turns, has allowed him to create goalscoring chances; like in the AFC Asian Cup. Although he still needs to improve on certain aspects like taking on opposition defenders when put in on goal. For example, when Dimas Delgado scored the second goal for BFC in the second-leg against NorthEast United, Udanta should have been in the scoresheet. In an electrifying counter, the youngster was let in on goal and had his pace to support his ambitions, but poor decision making saw him position himself in a very tight angle, and his cross-type lob hit the upright and fell comfortably for Dimas which he slotted past a hapless Pawan Kumar.
It was a similar case during India’s third goal against Thailand in the AFC Asian Cup clash. Udanta was put through on goal, but his positioning and run led him to make a last-ditch pass to Anirudh Thapa, who scored; again Udanta should have comfortably scored that rather than passing it to his teammate.
Arguably, the former U-19 I-League winner is one of the fastest players in this country. So his speed is very useful when on the counter, and Bengaluru have time and time again utilized his pace to full extent. The likes of Miku and Chhetri have benefited a lot from Udanta’s pace in the final third. He has also built a wonderful connection with his teammates up front, especially with Chhetri.
About his teammate, the Padma Shri Award winner said, "I’ve played with Udanta for five seasons now and I can safely say that people have seen only 60% of what he’s capable of delivering. He’s blessed with attributes that most footballers in the country can only dream of and it’s encouraging to see him work hard towards unlocking those attributes."
"He is no longer a goofy kid who was considered a junior for club and country. He has matured in leaps and bounds on the field and it’s safe to say he is a prized asset to both club and country," quipped Chhetri.
All in all, Udanta’s decision making needs to improve and he needs to be more clinical in front of goal. Surprisingly, he has put in more effort in his defending skills. This season, the winger has been tracking back more which is being reflected in his displays for India. When asked about how he has upgraded himself, the TFA product said, "I’ve had the good fortune of playing under three very good coaches at Bengaluru FC and each one of them has looked to bring out different sides of my game. I’ve also been blessed to share the dressing room with players like Chhetri bhai, Miku, Dimas and the others. I still have a lot to learn."
He further added, "Personally, I feel I’ve gotten better with decision making and have also added defending to my game, because my role at BFC demands that I track back. I’m happy to be able to get a few assists last season, and this season too. I’ve even managed to score some goals, which is nice. The aim is to keep working hard for both club and country."
Going into this ISL season's penultimate clash, Udanta Singh and his teammates will probably be aiming to exorcize their demons; with the right winger in their ranks, they have a good chance to score some goals via counter-attacks.
Published: Sun Mar 17, 2019 01:08 PM IST