Bengaluru: In retrospect, anything but a Federation Cup triumph would have been unacceptable for Bengaluru FC. What the Cup win has done for the club is ensure that the season, wretched though it might have been in the I-League given their lofty standards, will go down as yet another successful campaign.
After all, four major trophies in four seasons is no meek feat.
It also confirmed that the Garden City club will continue to play in the Asian competition, which for them, unlike a certain Kolkata club which finished runners-up and shall not be named, holds paramount importance.
But more than anything else, it gave head coach Albert Roca a trophy to mark his first season in charge. “We ended with a trophy, so it (season) can’t be that bad, can it? We reached the final of the AFC Cup and then this title. Just I-League was a little disappointing.”
It’s hard to argue with CK Vineeth’s words. “Every tournament we play, we play to win,” he continued. “We start our campaign with that target in our minds. This season has been difficult. We didn’t have a good time in the league. So, coming into the Federation Cup, the target was simple. We have to win this. It was more about the prestige of the team.”
While it’s hard to argue with the result, it doesn’t mask the fact that Roca’s team is still a work in progress and is just scratching at the surface of its potential. A glimpse of which was clearly visible against Johor Darul Tazim in the AFC Cup semifinal last season.
Vineeth, who scored a double in the Federation Cup final, accepts that there is work to be done despite the continued success. “Even in the Fed Cup, the performance was not up to the mark. First game against Shillong (Lajong) we ended conceding two unnecessary goals. Then, the DSK (Shivajians) game, I have no idea how we ended up losing that one. Then we drew against (Mohun) Bagan and qualified for the semis.
“In the semis, I think we should have scored a few more goals and put the game to bed. I missed a handful of chances, (Cameron) Watson hit the post and so on. Even there the performance was not up to the mark. I think until the final, Bengaluru FC didn’t play the competition. Only in the final it looked like that BFC was on the pitch,” remarked Vineeth adding that the conditions in Cuttack hardly did anyone any favours.
Tactician Roca on show
Meanwhile for Roca, it was a validation of the work the team put in during the season. Made even more impressive by the absence of the talismanic Sunil Chhetri and midfielder Cameron Watson. The fact that the Men in Blue shifted their game plan by conceding possession and playing on the break shows the versatility of the Spanish tactician.
“We played without two important players Sunil Chhetri and Cameron Watson but the squad showed that they can put up a good fight and never gave up until the last minute. Today the team has shown that even in case of adverse circumstances they can get the job done,” said Roca.
“We knew that they have really good strikers, but if we held on to the ball long enough we could find spaces in their defence to create chances and counter attack at the right time. A lot of credit should be given to our defenders who were able to close their players down and ensure we kept away any danger,” he stressed.
Yes, there is work to be done at the club. But winning is a culture, a mentality. One that is deeply engrained in the club’s DNA. Now, all that is left of the season is to ensure advancement into the AFC Cup knockout. And Roca, who has won and finished runner-up in the two Cup competitions at the club, and his team will surely be up for it when Maziya S&RC come calling on May 31....