The Blues clinched their maiden league title after defeating the Gaurs in the final on Sunday night.
It ended all smiles for Bengaluru FC this season, as the Blues finally got their hands on the Indian Super League title after beating FC Goa 1-0 late in the second half of extra time. Carles Cudrat‘s men were dominant in the league phase just like last campaign, but this term they have continued that form into the playoffs and the finale, where they lost out against Chennaiyin FC last year.
Rahul Bheke left it late, as the local boy headed home from a pinpoint Dimas Delgado corner to hand Bengaluru their first title.
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Watch: Bengaluru FC 1-0 FC Goa highlights
So, here are the talking points from the match:
5. Did Bengaluru learn from their mistakes in last season’s final?
The Blues completely dominated the league phase last season, but they succumbed under pressure on the big stage and lost the final against Chennaiyin. However, since then Albert Roca left and his close friend Carles Cuadrat joined at the helm, as they embarked on the journey once again.
Cuadrat was calm and calculative at each and every point in the league. He had the plan and the team to deliver the goods. The Blues lost their first playoff game against NorthEast United, but there was no sense of panic, as they turned it around in the home leg.
The Spaniard went with a pragmatic approach against a goal-friendly Goa and completely galvanised their attack throughout the game.
4. Was losing Mandar Rao Desai early on a big blow for FC Goa?
It was anybody’s game as Goa skipper Mandar Rao Desai unleashed his raw pace and went ahead on the counter-attack. However, the left-back dealt a blow to his hamstring and was stretchered off the field.
It was a huge blow for the Gaurs, as Mandar, who has flourished in his new left-back position was replaced by inexperienced defender Saviour Gama. Although, Gama showed a sense of maturity and was calm on the ball, Mandar’s impact on the field would have been totally different.
The 27-year-old finds the right blend between attack and defence and compliments Brandon Fernandes on the left flank beautifully. Just when the full-back started to threaten Bengaluru on the counter with his pace, he was unfortunately sidelined which had a huge impact on the game.
3. Did Sergio Lobera’s delay in introducing Hugo Boumous cost them the game?
Hugo Boumous is one such player in the ISL who can run through defences without breaking sweat. The Moroccan has the gift of sleek passing and exceptional dribbling skills. Sergio Lobera had him in his armoury and decided not to use him until the 119th minute, when the game had already been won by Bengaluru. The Spaniard had a great opportunity to bring on Boumous when Alex Barrera was having a shaky outing in the middle. Someone with Boumous pace and trickery could have been very effective in that phase of time.
However, Cuadrat understood the situation and brought in Luisma Villa to support Dimas Delgado in midfield. Lobera definitely missed a trick at that point of time, as introducing an impact sub like Boumous could have changed the course of play for the Gaurs.
2. Did Cuadrat’s pragmatic football neutralize Goa’s fluid attacking play?
The Bengaluru coach had a perfect plan chalked out for his opponents. The Blues hardly gave any space in defence and kept the likes of Ferran Corominas and others in check. However, the tactician did not impose any high pressing strategy for this game. He used the offside trap to great effect allowing Corominas and the wingers no space to run in behind the defenders. Goa were allowed the lion’s share of possession, however, they had very few clear-cut chances to show for it.
Cuadrat went with a pragmatic approach, as his team absorbed all the attacking pressure from the Gaurs early on and then gradually grew in stature, as the match went on. He came up with some tactical changes by bringing in Luisma and it eventually paid off. It was a very well thought out plan which was excellently executed by the players.
1. Has Rahul Bheke done enough to finally get a national team callup?
Another final day and another defender stepping up to score the title-deciding goal. It was local boy Bheke who broke the deadlock with a thumping header from Delgado’s late corner. The finale was set at the Mumbai Football Arena and the unexpected hero, Bheke is also from Mumbai as his goal sent the travelling Bengaluru fans into ruptures.
Rahul Bheke has been one of the most consistent players in defence for Bengaluru FC and has his own story of struggle but he has fought against all odds to emerge victorious in life. Despite being one of the stalwarts in the Bengaluru FC defence the 27-year old is yet to make his national team debut. There were questions on his exclusion from the Asian Cup squad and probably now the Mumbai born defender will finally get the national team callup which he deserves.