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Sami Faizullah gives his Player Ratings for Bengaluru FC’s first game of the season, against Shillong Lajong.
Dressed in pink, in support of women in the city, defending champions Bengaluru FC began their campaign with a comfortable 3-0 victory over Shillong Lajong. In what was Albert Roca’s first league fixture since joining the club, the Spaniard handed league debuts to five players in a new look Bengaluru FC.
Arminder Singh — 6: The goalkeeper was barely called upon as Bengaluru FC’s defence held up strong against Shillong Lajong. The keeper did exercise decent on the ball skills with his passes as the home side looked to play out from the back.
Harmanjot Khabra — 6.5: The Punjab born midfielder was played in an unconventional role in terms of his prior experience, as Albert Roca played the new signing at right-back. The 28-year-old was assured in defence but was clearly etching to go forward, and did show glimpses of his capability when he failed to resist the temptations of venturing forward.
Juan Gonzalez — 8: A striking feature that has characterized every Bengaluru FC side over the years is a solid defensive structure, and to be more precise – a solid central defensive pairing. Spaniard Juan Gonzalez has fit right in. The 29-year-old used his physical superiority to maximum potential, keeping Lajong’s attack in line and winning every aerial duel as the away side constantly resorted to route one football.
John Johnson — 7: Like his defensive partner, Johnson too had a solid game, specifically keeping Lajong’s Brazilian striker Pena in check. While Juan Gonzalez was more proactive in dealing with the long balls, Johnson slotted in slightly deeper in these defensive situations, hoping to clear up any residual second balls. Another typical assured performance from the Englishman.
Sena Ralte — 8.5: Another new signing, another new face at full back and another solid showing. Fresh off from a more consistent Indian Super League stint with Mumbai City FC, Ralte grabbed his big I-League opportunity with open arms. Not shy to get forward, both running the channels and sprinting down the flanks to provide an added option on captain Sunil Chhetri’s side, Ralte had a debut to remember. His attacking exploits were completed late in the second half when he reacted quickest to a half volley falling on his left foot; the long range strike nestled into the bottom left corner and Ralte had a story to tell on his debut.
Three things we Learned: Bengaluru FC 3-0 Shillong Lajong
Eugeneson Lyngdoh — 6: Among the impressive displays, Bengaluru FC’s creative midfielder had a rather dull game. Not quite having the right touch and crucially missing simple opportunities to strike at goal (often denied by Lajong’s impressive keeper, Vishal Kaith), Lyngdoh knows he’s capable of far superior displays.
Cameron Watson — 7.5: In true Spanish football fashion, Albert Roca has insisted on a “playing-from-the-back” approach rather than the cliche long ball system often employed in Indian football. Crucial to the system, is the role of the deep midfielder, who often undertakes the third centre back role when initiating attacks. Cameron Watson is Roca’s chosen man, and the Australian arguably is being built up as the most important cog in Roca’s Bengaluru FC wheel. The 29-year-old didn’t put a foot wrong in the game, trusting his range of passing, showing confidence on the ball and even getting forward on occasion. Shame his chipped pass in the first half to Sunil Chhetri from just outside the box didn’t come off.
Lenny Rodrigues — 6: Among the positivity of the new signings, Lenny Rodrigues remains a bit of a dull spark. While one can’t fault the 29-year-old’s commitment to the game, often leading the press for his side – it was only this passion that can be highlighted in an otherwise sub-par afternoon. Stray passes and poor movement characterized much of his evening.
Udanta Singh — 9: Youngtser Udanta Singh has been billed as a potential one to watch for Bengaluru FC for a couple of seasons now, having made his debut in 2014. The 20-year-old had previously struck twice in all competitions over nearly forty appearances in his first two seasons at the club. That figure was doubled against Shillong Lajong as the youngster struck a brace and led his side to victory. The first came after Udanta missed a volley from a corner, but a quick cross soon after led to a scramble in front of goal, with Udanta on hand to poach in a first. The second goal came moments after Udanta was denied by Vishal Kaith from close range as the striker attempted a lob over the keeper; moments later though he showed great composure to cut inside with a half volley and strike a calm shot passed the keeper. A sign of more to come perhaps?
Daniel Lalhlimpuia — 7: The teenager was the only other U-22 player in Bengaluru FC’s starting line-up. While he didn’t quite have the same rate of success as fellow youngster Udanta, Daniel was clearly keen to show his boss why he deserves a fair opportunity in the first team. Impressive again with his work-rate, he worked tirelessly off the ball, but it was a few stray touches on the ball that often let him down.
Sunil Chhetri — 6.5: While the new signings and youngsters stepped up, club legends like Chhetri and Lyngdoh had rather quiet games. It’s a welcome change to have for the club, as a lack of dependency on the experienced heads is a sign of an evolving team. While the captain impressed with his control on the ball, he was rather slow in his general performance in attack. Back-to-back tournaments from the AFC Cup to the ISL could potentially be taking a toll on the 32-year-old.
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