In their last three fixtures, The Blues have let in seven goals.
This perhaps is the worst time for Bengaluru FC to lose their momentum. A team that was unbeaten in the previous month, has already suffered two back to back defeats. The real problem is that teams from bottom half of the standings have exposed the fragility of their defence, which had only conceded eight goals in the first 11 matches.
The two South Indian derbies, against two sides who had failed to impress in the ongoing season, looked to present the ideal chance for Bengaluru FC to extend their lead at the top of the points table, turned out to be two closely-contested games with shock outcomes.
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Watch: Bengaluru conceded two unfortunate late goals against Delhi Dynamos
In the first of two derbies, Kerala Blasters, a side that had bowed their heads down to the Karnataka-based outfit in three previous encounters, seemed to pull off an upset in front of the vociferous West Block Blues. They would have, had it not been for some shrewd attacking football from Cuadrat‘s men in the second half that left the visitors defending in numbers. Udanta Singh scored one in second half and Chhetri, the man for the big occasions, restored parity with a late header to salvage a point.
That perhaps was a sign of things to come. Bottom-dwellers Chennaiyin FC scored two goals in the first-half to put Bengaluru FC under pressure; pressure to deliver, pressure to play to the standards of league leaders. Cuadrat’s side, in the second half, played with the same intention they had against Kerala Blasters. Chhetri, the legend, delivered again, in the second consecutive match but that just was not enough.
Same thing continued against Delhi Dynamos in The Blues’ most recent game. Although Bengaluru took the lead against the Lions, two back to back goals from Daniel Lalhlimpuia saw Bengaluru go down against the capital-based side, marking yet another unimpressive outing for the southerners.
Watch: Chennaiyin FC 2-1 Bengaluru FC highlights
Against the Chennaiyin midfield, that had featured experienced duo in Raphael Augusto and Gregory Nelson, The Blues could not impose their authority on the middle of the park as they did against Kerala Blasters. Bengaluru FC were clearly the stronger side. They attacked more, dominated the possession but still lost the game.
The first goal Bengaluru FC conceded against Chennaiyin FC speaks volumes about their defensive struggles. Raphael Augusto, the Brazilian who ran the show for the defending ISL champions, won the ball in midfield, surged forward and passed the ball to CK Vineeth, who failed to control the ball properly. Vineeth passed the ball, aiming Jeje but the ball fell to Nishu Kumar, and it would have been a disappointing end to a brilliant move, but the defender couldn’t clear it properly, and there was Jeje, with only Gurpreet Sandhu to beat, he triggered a powerful shot past their No.1 shot-stopper.
Courage Pekuson’s goal against Kerala Blasters was another example of their defensive woes. Sahal Abdul Samad had found Len Doungel on through but the attacker could not capitalize on the advantage. He struggled, for a few seconds, and that should have been enough for the Bengaluru FC defence to organize themselves but they didn’t, perhaps they couldn’t, and Courage Pekuson came with a stunner that left Gurpreet flat-footed.
Bengaluru FC have a formidable attack and that might help them win games against sides with inferior midfield but not necessarily against sides with Raphael Augusto in their team. That was on show in Chennai where Bengaluru FC deserved to be the losers.
Perhaps Udanta’s absence had taken a toll on Bengaluru FC. They would have attacked fiercely with him but with the league entering its climax, there is no room for errors. Kerala Blasters exposed it, Chennaiyin FC exposed it and it’s time Bengaluru FC look to make amends.
This might be frightening times for Bengaluru FC because this league, as Sunil Chhetri rightly pointed out, doesn’t guarantee the team that works hard, delivers results consistently for many weeks, to be called the ‘Champions of India’. The side coasted past FC Goa recently, and will face Jamshedpur on 27th February. Although, tagged as favourites to win the title, Bengaluru still have some work to do.