Can Bengaluru FC bounce back?

Determined bunch: Bengaluru FC is primed to give the fans a night to remember on Monday, according to coach Carles Cuadrat.  

NorthEast United FC’s injury-time winner in the first leg of the ISL semifinal may have sent the club faithful into raptures, but come Monday, in the return leg at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium against Bengaluru FC (BFC), the visiting team will still have a job to do.

The 2-1 advantage is as wafer-thin, especially with BFC having scored the crucial away goal.

That NorthEast may not have two of its best players in striker Bartholomew Ogbeche, who has scored 12 goals, and midfielder Rowllin Borges will only make matters difficult for it.

Coach Eelco Schattorie wouldn’t reveal the extent to which the duo had recovered from hamstring injuries sustained in Guwahati, but counterpart Carles Cuadrat chose to focus only on his side and players.

In good mood

“I am happy we are here with a result which is not so bad,” Cuadrat said on Sunday. “The mood is good. We are training very well and I am sure we can give the fans a night to remember, like the AFC Cup semifinal (2016) and the playoff against Pune last year.”

BFC’s form has waxed and waned in the past few weeks, but Cuadrat’s confidence stems from the fact that he has a full squad to choose from.

Key midfielder Dimas Delgado appears to have escaped sanction for his alleged role in the post-match fracas after the first leg, with only the two assistant coaches, Gerard Zaragoza of BFC and Shaun Onteng of NorthEast, receiving touchline bans.

“We are one team with some names and completely different with other,” said Cuadrat. “You saw in the second half how NorthEast was without Ogbeche and Borges… they are another team. It is the same for us. When we had a full squad, we had been unbeaten, won six continuous games. So we can win, even if it goes to extra time.”

Stingiest defence

The visitors can take heart from the first-half performance in the opening leg where they dominated the ball. NorthEast also has the stingiest defence in the league (18 goals) and has lost just two out of nine games on the road, though one of those was in Bengaluru.

“We are here to win,” declared Schattorie. “It is all or nothing. We have a good away record… the best I think. Most clubs and teams we go to, the support isn’t that much that it can shake you. I am not scared.” BFC though might have other ideas.

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Printable version | May 7, 2021 8:42:59 PM |

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