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Three Things We Learned: Bengaluru FC 2-0 Mumbai City FC

Sami Faizullah discusses three talking points about the Indian Super League game that finished Bengaluru FC 2-0 Mumbai City FC

Bengaluru FC made their much awaited Indian Super League debut against Mumbai City FC. It was a clash of familiar faces as the likes of Sunil Chhetri and Udanta Singh had played under Alexandre Guimarães at Mumbai City FC, and now turned out for the home side; while Australian Erik Paartalu had played under the Costa Rican coach while at Tiajin Teda. Both Albert Roca and Guimarães also knew each other well having taken charge of El Salvador and Costa Rica during their CONCACAF days.

Alexandre Guimaraes’ pragmatic approach

Mumbai City FC set-up precisely with the intention of taking a point away from what could turn out to be a difficult away tie for most ISL sides. Guimarães implemented a low block, while the front few were instructed to press high up the pitch. But as the game wore on, Mumbai City’s game plan subsided and Bengaluru FC began controlling the play. After half time, the away side’s game plan receded further, with the more defensive minded Meharajuddin Wadoo being substituted in. Both to take off the more attacking oriented Sahil Tavora, but also to move Raju Gaikwad to the opposite flank where Udanta Singh was causing trouble.

The defensive set up worked for most part, as Mumbai City FC kept the home side’s attack at bay from open play, frustrating Albert Roca’s men. Ultimately it was a set piece that led to Bengaluru FC’s opening goal, with open play not proving fruitful as Mumbai City’s game-plan worked for more than an hour.

Though Guimarães denied looking for a point, he told Outside of the Boot, “Winning the game is always our first game plan. But there were some situations during the game that led to us having to make changes. But this didn’t have anything to do with the good way the other side played”.

Bengaluru FC enjoyed 56% possession, but alarmingly, had sixteen shots in total as opposed to Mumbai City’s one.

With the away side retreating in the second half, Bengaluru FC got braver with their attacking approach, playing with a higher defensive line and countering the opposition’s only goal-scoring game plan – of playing a ball over the top in search of striker Everton Santos. The well worked high-line meant Everton was caught offside on multiple occasions, four in total, all in the half spaces in Bengaluru’s half.

Udanta’s right-wing exploits and Ruidas’ work-rate

Udanta Singh had a fantastic game down Bengaluru FC’s right, utilising his pace and movement to take advantage of the home side’s width. But poor decision making, more than anything else, let the 21-year-old down on a couple of occasions. The space left down the right for Bengaluru FC to exploit was especially beneficial, as Mumbai City FC’s wide defensive players ventured too far forward or forced the central defenders tucked narrow inside.

The youngster had two good opportunities in the first half, both while being released by captain Sunil Chhetri on the counter. The first he shot first time over the bar, and the second he failed to square to a team-mate when afforded a fair amount of space.

But while his finishing may be raw, Udanta is definitely working towards a finished product as no one can doubt his physical ability and work-rate. Coach Albert Roca was impressed with Udanta’s performance as well: “He’s one of the faster players in our squad and we have to take advantage of this. Sometimes he needs to have more pace with the ball, but he’s a young player and will continue to improve.”

The battle down Bengaluru FC’s right was especially exciting with Mumbai City’s 23-year-old Abinash Ruidas also putting in a fantastic shift, eventually winning the Emerging Player of the Match award. Ruidas’ role was from a more defensive perspective, focusing on the wide midfield areas, in an attempt to regain possession in half spaces. He also however, was to be used as a counter-attacking outlet in the other phase of play which meant a high work-rate was imperative.

This website was especially delighted with the performances of Udanta and Ruidas, owing to our focus on U-23 players during the duration of this tournament

Carles Cuadrat’s short corner routine

Bengaluru FC’s opening goal came from a set-piece, one of nine corners that the side had, as opposed to Mumbai City FC’s one. The home side’s coaching staff were specifically pleased with Eduardo Garcia’s goal. The previous corners leading up to the goal saw the ball drilled into the box, looking for the heads of John Johnson and Juanan.

Albert Roca’s assistant coach, Carles Cuardat, was seen hysterically signalling to Udanta Singh and Eduardo Garcia to take a short corner, which the side did leading to Garcia’s effort at the near post.

We asked coach Albert Roca post-match about this and he was full of praise for Cuardat’s set piece activity, acknowledging that the side needed to get a break of “luck” from somewhere. He hinted at how the side needed to be more dynamic from both open play and set-pieces, which they certainly were on Sunday night.

“Players have to understand how important these [set-pieces] are”, Roca told Outside of the Boot, “almost 30% of goals in football come from set-pieces, and we have given importance to that”.

While Bengaluru FC have been known for its superior attacks in previous games and competitions with the likes of Sunil Chhetri, and young Udanta Singh, the side realise they needed to be prepared for games such as the Mumbai City FC one where sides can concede possession but shut-shop in defence, rendering set-pieces more crucial.

We asked Carles Cuadrat about his set-piece activity and if the short corner was particularly worked on in the training ground – “of course but I cannot tell you the plan!”

Read all our Indian Super League content here

Sami Faizullah

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