Bengaluru FC completed their pre-season tour to Spain with a 3-0 loss against Barcelona B, a team that featured youngsters. The Indian team played the game with a ‘defense-first’ mechanism and the 3-4-3 formation, that looked more like a 3-6-1, playing a counter-attacking style of play.
The former AFC Cup finalists played UAE club Al-Ahli and Villarreal B alongside the Barca side. Bengaluru lost all three games but gained some valuable experience from the games. The last game against Barca B saw Bengaluru hold them to a goalless draw in the first half, displaying a resolute defensive style and discipline.
Bengaluru FC had begun their 2018 Spain Tour with a 2-1 loss to Atlético Saguntino in their first friendly game at the Masia La Grava facility in Alboraya, Valencia.
The Indian Super League side lost 1-5 against the UAE Pro-League side but saw the amalgamation of two creative players into the starting XI. Former Minerva Punjab star Chencho Gyeltshen and Xisco Hernandez started for the Blues and played positive roles in the attacking half.
New goalkeeper Soram Poirei also displayed composure, saving a penalty. Talisman Miku Fedor scored the only goal, but Bengaluru FC also went close with Boithang Haokip and Chencho Gyeltshen also making inroads. Xisco Hernandez made the midfield spot his own and linked up well with Dimas Delgado and Sunil Chhetri. The fitness of the team, though, looked far from best.
Defender Erik Paartalu hit the post late into the second half, and defensive lapses led to numerous goals against the JSW side.
Against Villarreal B
Playing at the Mini Estadi in Villarreal, Bengaluru slipped to a narrow 1-0 defeat against the La Liga team’s reserve side. It was a brilliant performance from the Indian club, who came close with a Sunil Chhetri free-kick in the first half and a Miku-Udanta combine that was cleared from close range.
Xisco, yet again, held the midfield well. The Spaniard displayed maturity as well as adventurism to ensure the attackers had enough sniff in the opposition half. First-choice goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu returned to the starting XI after a bout of chickenpox and played a terrific game. Sandhu also saved a penalty.
Chencho had an off-game of sorts and was replaced in the second half. Coach Carles Cuadrat, though, would be fuming over the missed chances.
Against Barcelona B
Barcelona B showed why they’re touted as one of the best football academies in the world. Playing a side that carried youngsters, the team dominated possession for most of the game and the positional awareness was a treat to watch.
Bengaluru sat back and soaked one attack after another. The team played with a trialist alongside Juanan, and the player looked to be filling the hole created by John Johnson’s departure to ATK. The team played good, disciplined football until Gurpreet's misjudgement in the 55th minute allowed Barca B’s No. 8 to score the opener.
Bengaluru created a chance through a fleeting move in the 24th minute, with captain Chhetri failing to connect a ball from the left side of the goal. The team will be looking for more coordination between Chhetri, Miku, Udanta and Xisco.
Bengaluru has looked to cover all gaps, and youth players in Bidyananda and Gursimrat Singh Gill can expect chances late in the second half of the upcoming season. The arrival of Rino Anto from Kerala Blasters will add security to the right, with the team now having options for both a back three and back four.
Cuadrat has spent enough time with the side to know its shortcomings, and the team only needs to work on its link-up and finishing. Otherwise, the defence has looked as determined as ever, and as the fitness gets better, Bengaluru will come close to being their best.
Bengaluru will next play the Altyn Asyr FK, a Turkmen Football Club, in the AFC Cup Inter-zonal semi-finals on 22nd August.