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ISL 2020-21: Jamshedpur FC Continue Good Run, Give Bengaluru FC a Reality Check

Bengaluru FC, long considered Indian football’s best club, led by Sunil Chhetri, has been less than spectacular this season. On the contrary, Jamshedpur FC, who beat BFC 1-0, look exciting, and have been unbeaten against the top five sides in the Indian Super League (ISL).
TP Rehenesh of Jamshedpur FC

Jamshedpur FC goalkeeper TP Rehenesh thwarts a Bengaluru FC attack during their Indian Super League match on Monday (Pic: Twitter, ISL).

Whisper it if you want. Or to hell with it. The year is almost over, this dysfunctional, flawed, dystopian year is over and with it has arrived another new reality: Bengaluru FC are not very good. It could even be said they are not good at all. Mediocre even. Fourth in the table, but let’s be real, this is Bengaluru FC. 

They have that guy who has scored 72 goals for India. At the other end they have the guy who single handedly earned India a point against the Asian champions (who to be fair has been exceptional through this season too) and an assortment of jewels in the middle. A club that has regularly expected more seems to be floundering. Talks about the end of an era are premature (seeing as actually this is a new era) but it must be said: Bengaluru FC are boring. Bengaluru FC are entertainment negative and Bengaluru FC are fourth in the table with almost half the season gone. 

But enough about a team sliding down. Best to focus on Jamshedpur FC, a club that has never finished in the top four, absolutely enjoying themselves there. This team, this Owen Coyle bag of tricks have now beaten ATK Mohun Bagan, Bengaluru FC, NEUFC and held the favourites Mumbai City FC. That by the way, rounds up the top five in the table. And Jamshedpur are yet to lose to anyone there. 

A day back in a pre-match interview, BFC coach Carles Cuadrat had stressed on some facts, detailing how his team had actually only lost twice in 11 games. No need to panic yet boys. He admitted how they wanted to end the year on a high, and keep things going. “Jamshedpur will be a tough opponent to face,” Cuadrat said, “but we have a plan, and we will try to get the three points”.

Whatever that plan was, safe to say, didn’t account for Jamshedpur being aggressive, positive minded and tough to crack. 

To be fair though, Bengaluru were the team creating a lot of the chances in the first period. Twice in the opening half, Suresh Wangjam ran through the Jamshedpur midfield, carving the defence open only to lay his pass slightly behind the receiver. The first time around, it was Sunil Chhetri who had his legs tangled because of the pass, and TP Rehenesh saw the shot drift wide. The second forced the goalkeeper into action. Wangjam again played the ball slightly behind Celiton Silva, offering Rehenesh just that extra second he needed to acrobatically dive down and block a sure shot on goal.

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Between those chances were missed headers, tame freekicks, and half chances galore. And all of them would come to bite Bengaluru soon enough. Every lost opportunity boosted Jamshedpur’s confidence and they issued some highlights of their own, Nerijus Valskis with two of the best that, on any other day, he’d have rippled the net with.

Inasmuch as Rehenesh had kept his side in the game, Gurpreet Singh Sandhu did too, pulling off two absolute blinders from close range to ensure Bengaluru were in with a chance to get the points. His teammates unfortunately weren’t of the same bent. In the 79th came an Aniket Jadhav cross (one that won the needlessly titled winning pass of the match award), bent into a dangerous area, forcing Sandhu to intervene and putting him half here and half nowhere (the peril of a shot stopper). Stephen Eze was there, wrestling with Juanan, and also getting his head on to the ball — multitasking at its best. Sandhu made the save, but the rebound came off a leg, a hand, a thigh (a tentacle perhaps), and went in. The replays made this much clear, the ball had crossed the line. Bengaluru FC were a goal down. Again. For the second time in a row. 

And it stayed that way. Could have even been worse if Jamshedpur had been more clinical. And so, the year ends. A dystopian, dysfunctional year, ending with India’s best club losing two in a row. Not the end of the world. Barely a blip, but something is changing. Or maybe nothing has, and that perhaps is the root of the problem. 

Cuadrat was melancholic.  “It’s football. All the analysis is one thing, but full marks to them. They scored and we have to accept that and congratulate them”. 

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