A draw was a fair result in the end as neither side deserved to get three points from the clash…
Odisha FC were agonisingly close to picking up their second win of the season against Bengaluru FC on Sunday but failed to do so as Erik Paartalu bailed out the Blues in the 82nd minute with an equaliser and rescued them a point.
Both Odisha and Bengaluru had their chances to score more goals but were guilty of wasting chances to clinch the tie. In the end, the 1-1 draw was a fair result for both teams.
The Kalinga Warriors have improved quite a bit from their poor start to the season. They have grown in confidence with each passing game in attack but they still need to be more clinical up front. They have also been guilty of not closing out matches whenever they have got their noses ahead, especially like what happened on Sunday.
Diego Mauricio has been the club’s standout performer since the beginning of the season and is the club’s top scorer this year with seven goals in 13 matches but it is not possible for the Brazilian alone to keep scoring and win matches single-handedly. There needs to be more contribution from the others.
Baxter off late has been deploying a more attacking 4-3-3 formation which has seen forwards Manuel Onwu and Daniel Lahlimpuia playing alongside Mauricio upfront but neither the Indian forward nor the Spaniard have found the back of the net this season. Onwu has been nowhere close to his form from last season where he joined the club in January and scored goals galore.
Both of them have had chances to score against Bengaluru but failed to take their chances.
Another major issue which Baxter is facing is his defensive woes. The British coach has experimented a lot in the backline and has tried several combinations. Jacob Tratt initially used to start as Steven Taylor’s partner in central defence but the Australian defender nowadays is playing as a right full-back. Baxter has tried Gaurav Bora in defence at times, Rakesh Pradhan in the January transfer window with Hendry Antonay replaced at left-back.
However, Odisha continue to concede goals at crucial junctures. They have leaked in 20 goals which is the second-worst record at the moment after Kerala Blasters.
After the match, Baxter seemed exasperated with Odisha’s inability to hold on to leads as he said, “I am frustrated with many things like our inability to put the game to bed, our inability to defend the full 90 minutes without making elementary mistakes. Set-pieces decide many games and it brought them (Bengaluru FC) back in the game. I was disappointed that we didn’t do a great job in not giving away silly free-kicks and silly throw-ins or corner. The team has to learn from it. We are playing well on a regular basis to win games but we are not winning.”
The British coach is correct to point out that his team are conceding silly goals and are not able to finish off matches early even though they are getting ample opportunities. The team is showing improvement in every match but they need to show more resilience and kill off games if they want to finish the season in a respectable position.
Bengaluru FC too are facing issues in terms of converting the chances which was evident on Sunday. They are showing intent in attack, especially when they try to make a comeback after a setback. But their major problem this season has been their defence. The Blues were always known for the solid defensive organisation. They were the best team in the league in the last two seasons in terms of defending and were not known for leaking too many goals.
The Blues have tried several combinations at the heart of their backline but they just can’t stop the leak. They are conceding silly goals at times. Their defensive woes haven’t really helped Gurpreet Singh Sandhu in goal as well. Sandhu, while pulling off crucial saves, has had to deal with a bit more pressure than he is used to in the recent past.
As we enter a crucial phase in the ISL, both Bengaluru and Odisha are in desperate need of a couple of positive results.