Thursday, May 17, 2018

Roca bids adieu to Bengaluru, returns home Barcelona owing to personal reasons

Bengaluru FC Media 

Bengaluru Football Club Head Coach Albert Roca will be leaving the position at the end of the 2017-18 season, the club announced on Thursday. The Blues’ Spanish manager opted not to renew his initial two-year deal owing to personal reasons, bringing an end to an impressive spell that saw Bengaluru FC become the first Indian club to make the final of the AFC Cup. His success was also highlighted by the Federation Cup (2017) and Super Cup (2018) titles that the club won to maintain the Blues’ record of winning a trophy every season since its inception in 2013 and more recently, guiding the club to a fourth consecutive appearance in the knock-out stages of the AFC Cup.

“Bengaluru FC and more importantly Indian football will always be grateful for the path that Albert Roca has shown us. Even in difficult situations he stayed true to his philosophy and brand of football and that is a testament to the manager and person he is. His idea of how the game is to be played is what we need to be able to compete in Asia and on the world stage. He will always have a place at Bengaluru FC and we wish him the best for his future,” said club CEO, Parth Jindal.

The former Barcelona assistant coach who arrived in the country at the start of the 2016-17 season, left a lasting impression on Indian football with his philosophy. The Blues, who had established themselves as a reckoning force in Indian football, further increased their dominance under Roca as they began to play some of the most attractive, possession-based and free-flowing football.

Roca said though short, Bengaluru FC would always remain a special story in his career. “It was one of the toughest decisions I have had to make in my managerial career but it’s the right one. Bengaluru FC has been an experience I will always carry with me, no matter where I go. The owners, the management, my staff, players and most importantly, the fans walked with me every step of this journey and I can never forget the love and support I have received here. I will miss being on the touchline for this club, but will always follow its progress,” said the Spaniard.

Roca’s first assignment for Bengaluru FC was the knock-out stages in the AFC Cup from where he went on to steer the Blues all the way to final in Qatar where they went down 1-0 to Iraq’s Air Force Club. He then put behind a disappointing fourth-place finish in the I-League to beat arch rivals Mohun Bagan and win the Federation Cup. Forced to rebuild the squad completely at the start of the 2017-18 season due to the Indian Super League draft, Roca got down to business as the Blues became the first Indian side to reach back-to-back semifinals at the continental stage. After falling short to Tajikistan side FC Istiklol in the Inter-zone final the 2017 AFC Cup, the Blues arrived into the expanded ISL amid much fanfare. However, Bengaluru didn’t take time to settle in into the new league, smashing one record after another as they finished the league stage in pole position with a record tally of 40 points and 13 wins and made their way into the grand final in their first attempt. He then got the team to put aside heartbreak in the final of the ISL, spurring them on to a flawless and triumphant Super Cup campaign a month later.

In his two seasons at Bengaluru, Roca managed a staggering win ratio of over 60 per cent while achieving a record 15-match unbeaten run for the club in early 2018. In fact, the Blues even went on to log six-match winning runs on three different occasions. While establishing their name on the continental stage, the Blues also remained unbeaten at the Fortress under the Spaniard. 


Wednesday, May 16, 2018

[AFC Cup] Bengaluru beat Abahani 4-0, make it to knockout stage

Bengaluru FC Media 

It took a bit of everything – a boss-like show in Dhaka, drama in Guwahati, a big push from a resolute Aizawl FC side as Bengaluru FC finished as champions of the South Zone, and finally booked a place in the knock-out stages of the AFC Cup for a fourth straight season. 

Goals from Daniel Segovia (13’), Nishu Kumar (16’, 58’) and Sunil Chhetri (60’) gave the Blues a 4-0 win over Abahani Limited Dhaka. But it was the game in Guwahati that would decide Bengaluru’s fate where Aizawl who needed to beat New Radiant or hold the Maldivian side to a draw for Bengaluru to go through. And the Santosh Kashyap-coached side chose the three-point route to aid the Blues, beating New Radiant 2-1. 

The water-logged pitch from overnight showers looked like giving Bengaluru FC trouble, but two quick goals in a span of three minutes dispelled any such worries for Albert Roca. Playing a slightly heavy version of their free-flowing brand of football, the Blues shot into the lead when Chhetri rolled the ball perfectly across the face of the goal, leaving Segovia with the simple job of scoring past Abahani ’keeper Sahidul Alam to make it 1-0. 

Chhetri then squirmed past two blue Abahani shirts to tee up Nishu who slammed the ball low to the corner and beyond Alam. The two early blows were enough to prompt Abahani into submission as Bengaluru hogged possession and began camping in the hosts’ final third. 

Chhetri then completed a hat-trick of assists when he chipped over the Abahani defence for Nishu to fantastically control the ball on his chest before firing home from close to make it 3-0. The skipper finally got into the act on the hour mark when Alam spilled a cross that fell to Chhetri who scored his 24th goal of the season with a simple finish after holding off a defender. 

Elsewhere in Aizawl where everyone who had anything to do with Bengaluru FC had their eyes on, Leonce Dodoz gave the hosts a 61st minute lead that Romanian Andrei Ionescu doubled in the 82nd minute. New Radiant needed three goals to keep their hopes of making the knock-out stages alive and Ibrahim Hassan began the fight with an 85th minute strike. But Aizawl, with nothing to play for in Group E, clung on to the lead that sent the squad in Dhaka in raptures. 

A draw process that involves four zones – Central Asia, South Asia, East Asia and ASEAN - will determine Bengaluru’s next opponents. While three group winners have been decided, the final of the ASEAN Zone is yet to take place.


Tuesday, May 15, 2018

[AFC Cup] Must win game for Bengaluru against Abahani; hoping for favor from Aizawl against New Radiant

Bengaluru FC Media 

Bengaluru FC will hope for the rub of the green to go their way at more than one venue on Wednesday, when they take on Abahani Limited Dhaka, at the Bangabandhu National Stadium, in Bangladesh, in their final Group E game of the 2018 AFC Cup.

Albert Roca’s men need a win while hoping Aizawl FC claim a point or more against New Radiant SC in Group E’s other fixture, if they are to stand a chance of qualifying for knock-out stages of the Cup for a fourth successive year. Meanwhile, the Maldivian side simply need to match Bengaluru FC’s result, as a better goal difference in the head-to-head comparison between the two sides will pull New Radiant through.

“It’s true that we are in a position where a win may not be enough to qualify, but it has been made clear to the players that we have to remain focused on the task ahead. We cannot take Abahani (Limited Dhaka) lightly, as they are a team with some good players and we have seen that in our travels here before,” said Roca, speaking to the press on the eve of the clash.

Bengaluru’s only previous visit to Dhaka ended in defeat to the Bangladeshi side in the group stages of last year’s AFC Cup campaign with late goals from Saad Uddin and Rubel Miya handing Roca’s men a 2-0 loss. In a more recent meeting between the sides, Daniel Lalhlimpuia scored a 72nd minute winner at the Kanteerava Stadium in March as the Blues began their continental campaign.

The Saiful Bari Titu-coached Abahani side are out of contention for the knockout stages and have won just one of their five games so far this campaign, a 3-0 away victory in Aizawl - their only win across all competitions in the last four months - but Roca believes there is no room for complacency.

“We have always had close games against Abahani Dhaka, as they are difficult to break down and play a different style of football. The conditions in Bangladesh are also quite different from what we are used to, so we will have to be wary if we are to do well and take anything away from this game,” the Spaniard said.

Bengaluru were dealt a late blow when winger Boithang Haokip suffered an injury that kept him out of the traveling squad while right-back Nishu Kumar has joined the team from Kolkata, where he was in action with the club’s reserve squad against Mohammedan Sporting in the 2nd Division League. Meanwhile, Abahani will be missing the services of midfielder Mohammad Fahad, along with the Nigerian duo of attacker Sunday Chizoba and defender Ndukaku Alison who are all suspended.

The game in Dhaka kicks off at 7.15 pm local time (6.45 pm IST) and can be streamed live on the AFC Cup Facebook page. 


Monday, May 14, 2018

INDIA win U-16 four-nation tournament in Serbia

AIFF Media 

The Indian U-16 National Team was crowned champions of the Four-Nation Tournament held in Serbia from May 09-13, 2018 after the Indian Colts defeated Tajikistan 4-2 today (May 13, 2018).

The Four-Nation Tournament saw the Indian U-16s face hosts Serbia, Jordan, and Tajikistan and while the Indian Colts drew 0-0 with the hosts, they defeated Jordan 2-1 and Tajikistan 4-2.

In what was a stellar start for the Indian U-16s against Tajikistan today, the young colts took the lead as early as the 5th minute when Gibson lobbed the ball over the opposing custodian. Two minutes later, Sailo took advantage of a scramble inside the opposition box and scored to double India’s lead.

India tripled their lead in the 9th minute when Shabaj slotted the ball home to make the scoreline read 3-0 in less than ten minutes. Tajikistan started to fight back and in the 12th minute pulled a goal back courtesy of a penalty kick.

In the 15th minute, Tajikistan minimized their deficiency and found the Indian net once again to make the scoreline read 3-2.

After the half-time scoreline read 3-2 in India’s favour, and with Tajikistan holding on to hopes of a dramatic comeback, the Indian Colts put the match to rest.

In the 66th minute, Ricky’s through ball found Rohit Danu and the latter bundled the ball home to give India a two-goal lead cushion as the scoreline read 4-2. The full-time scoreline read the same as India finished their campaign unbeaten in three matches, accumulating seven points out of a maximum nine.



[Second Div I-League] Ozone lose to Kerala Blasters Reserves but move to the Final round

Despite losing to Kerala Blasters Reserves by a goal in the final game of Group B, Ozone FC Bengaluru qualified to the final round. The all-important goal for the visitors was scored by Suraj Rawat. 

Ozone finished second in the group, however, owing to the rule of ISL reserve teams not eligible to play in the final round of Second Division, Ozone qualified as the next best team. FC Kerala too finished with same points, but Ozone got a better head to head record. 

Also, qualified to the final round is Real Kashmir FC from Group A and Tiddim road athletic union - TRAU from Group C. The fourth team for the final round would be the best second team from three groups, where Hindustan Football Club and FC Kerala stand a bright chance. Hindustan only need a point to qualify, their match today at Delhi against United Delhi Fc was paused due to sandstorm, the remaining minutes of the match will be played tomorrow morning.