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Bengaluru FC had a chance to turn their fortunes around after the loss to Sporting the past weekend. A home game against DSK Shivajians was an excellent opportunity for the home side to get 3 important points and Ashley Westwood’s men made no mistake. Arnab Ray has a look at what we learned from the game that finished Bengaluru FC 4-1 DSK Shivajians.
After a start to the season dominated by away trips, Bengaluru FC had a chance to put their best foot forward with three home games in a row. All eyes were on the big game against Mohun Bagan but a surprise defeat against Sporting in the past weekend saw the game against DSK Shivajians suddenly become a must win fixture for the home side.
Like most sides that come to the Kanteerava, DSK Shivajians were content to sit deep and soak up any pressure that the home side exerted on them. Derrick Pereira seemed to have taken a leaf out of Khalid Jamil and his Mumbai FC side as he looked to suffocate the Blues and perhaps eke out a winner through the pair of Douhou Pierre and Sampathkumar Kuttymani upfront. However, DSK are a new side still finding their way as a collective unit and it showed. The compact defence was put to the sword by Ashley Westwood’s men as the Englishman’s side focused their attack mainly through the wings.
The first sign that Westwood was looking to stretch the pitch and get at the DSK defence through the wings was when the team was announced. The home side lined up in a 4-3-3 formation with Michael Collins playing his second game for the club as the deepest lying midfielder.The 2 pressing midfielders were Siam Hanghal and Shankar Sampingiraj as Westwood rang in the changes with the clash against Bagan looming. Beikhokhei Beingaichho was deployed on the right wing with Sunil Chhetri on the left and North Korean Kim Song Yong leading the line as usual. The interesting pick was of course Beikho. A fan favourite from the historic first season of the club, the diminutive winger has been one of the most affected by the Blues’ development both in terms of tactics and personnel. Beikho is an old fashioned winger who rarely thinks twice when given a chance to skip out wide and whip a cross in.
It wasn’t just Beikho who was instrumental in making the pitch wider as the two full-backs played a vital role in the victory. Overlapping full-backs are considered run-of-the-mill in modern day football but rarely do you see both full-backs have heavy involvement in 3 goals in the same match. An advanced Keegan Pereira found Kim with a lofted ball and the striker did well to hold up play and win the foul. Sunil Chhetri was the one man queue waiting to take the free kick and the skipper made no mistake as he found the back of the net with an expertly placed shot. His counterpart Rino Anto was directly involved in 2 goals, providing the cross for Kim’s header and another for Beikho in the build to the third goal.
Another instance of Beikho’s role in the game was seen soon after the first goal as a switch of play from Michael Collins found the Mizo winger whose quality cross-in needed the intervention of opposing ‘keeper Subrata Paul. Quizzed on the winger’s inclusion and his tactical approach to the game, Westwood said, “We do our homework on opposition teams and their back 4 plays really narrow so it leaves their wings exposed. It was the right game to change and give us a bit more width. Obviously if you want width and you want crosses into the box, then Beikho is probably your man. He’s done everything we’ve asked, he’s always done everything we’ve asked from him. It was just the right system for the right game today and it worked well obviously.”
The Bengaluru based side may have lost out on the title in the dying minutes of the season last year but taking the season as a whole, it would be fair to say that lack of goals was a major concern. Chhetri had an uncharacteristically unproductive season in front of goal and the likes of Robin Singh and Sean Rooney chipped in with goals without being prolific. Thus, Westwood will be delighted that new signing Kim Song Yong has settled in well at the club.
This site was critical of Kim’s performance, particularly his hold up play, against Mumbai but the North Korean has shown just why the Blues snapped him up after not offering a contract extension to Sean Rooney. The striker was on the pitch for only an hour, but it was enough to make a significant mark on the game. Using the flanks to play around a narrow back 4 is an exercise in futility unless there’s a real target in the box to act as the focal point. Kim was a handful for the Shivajians throughout the evening.
With the pattern of the game set, it came as little surprise when BFC doubled the lead on the half hour mark. A good early cross from Rino Anto found Kim in the area who complemented his intelligent movement with a pin point header. With the back 4 of DSK attempting to stay narrow, the league leaders looked to play the ball out wide and then search for Kim whose hold up play on the night was excellent.
The North Korean delivered a classic number 9’s performance alternatively coming short and holding up play and also spinning in behind to try and find space behind the Shivajians defence. Off the ball too he was one of the hardest working players, constantly closing down the opposition defenders and trying to force mistakes. Having said all this, the obvious caveat is that DSK are the bottom side of the I-League and Westwood would expect his main man to dominate such games. A far sterner test awaits the striker this weekend and the tussle between him and the Bagan defence may well prove to be decisive to the outcome of the game.
Off the ball the Bengaluru team were very organized as we’ve come to expect from an Ashley Westwood side. By Derrick Pereira’s own admission, DSK’s frailties when it came to maturity and fitness were exposed by a thoroughly professional side. The home side made as many as 4 changes from the game against Sporting with the duo of Shankar and Siam Hanghal adding energy to the middle of the park. The hard working Kim defended from the front with Chhetri and Beikho both maintaining high positions to pin the opposition full-backs back.
In midfield Shankar and Hanghal were more man-oriented in their pressing as they paid close attention to the duo of Surchandra Singh and Shrikant Molangiri in DSK’s midfield. The deepest midfielder Michael Collins was exempt from pressing duties, focusing instead on the sitting in front of the back 4. The press had its desired effect as the away side struggled to construct play and had only one notable attacking move throughout the game. They struggled against the press and their attack was mainly limited to long range strikes or chances eked out by virtue of Douhou Piere’s individual ability. The goal came as a result of a BFC mistake which Douhou capitalized on as he found Kuttymani with a measured cross just before half time.
It’s not often that there’s a single phase of play that can capture the tactical approach of a side over the course of a match but BFC’s third goal did just that. The pressing scheme forced a mistake which won the home side a throw in. From the throw-in, Kim did well to hold up the ball and find the overlapping Anto on the right side. His measured cross found Beikho who had drifted into a more central position and the runner from midfield Shankar bundled in the equalizer. A goal that Ashley Westwood would have certainly enjoyed.
Written by Arnab Ray