At the beginning of last season, two new sides joined the iSL to take the number of sides in the league up to an aesthetically pleasing ten. We’ve already covered one of the sides, Jamshedpur. Now, we’re onto the other one. Of course, I am referring to Bengaluru. After pretty much dominating the I-League since their formation, Bengaluru felt the time was right to embark on a new challenge. An ISL flavoured challenge. Naturally, the extra money that comes from the ISL and playing in it would’ve played a part in Bengaluru’s decision to shift across, however, no matter which way you look at it, they were absolutely superb.

The Best By Far

My knowledge of football chants in India isn’t the greatest and I’m not going to pretend otherwise, nonetheless, if Bengaluru’s West Block Blues were to give a rendition of: It’s Bengaluru (clap, clap, clap), Bengaluru FC, we’re by far the greatest team, the ISL has ever seen, then they would be spot on. Yes, I know the last line doesn’t particularly fit, but what are you gonna do? Anyway, enough messing about with fictitious songs, let’s take a look over what was a magnificent maiden season in the ISL for Bengaluru.

The Blues had a favourable start to the season as the fixture computer (do they use those?) gave Bengaluru two home games on the bounce, to begin with. Mumbai and Delhi were the respective visitors to the Sree Kanteerave Stadium. If either of the aforementioned sides were hoping to catch Albert Roca’s side cold, they were sadly mistaken. Goals after the break from Edu Garcia and India’s prince charming, Sunil Chhetri, ensured that Bengaluru got off to the best possible start. This was then followed up with a resounding 4-1 victory over Miguel Portugal’s Delhi. Paartalu (2), Lenny and Miku with the goals in this one. So, after two games, Bengaluru had netted six goals with five different goalscorers. Blinding.

November came to a halt with a fascinating encounter against FC Goa. Seven goals were shared as Bengaluru came from 1-0 down and 3-1 down to make it 3-3 with just over half an hour left to play. Unfortunately, the evergreen Coro made it 4-3 to FC Goa and the rest as they say, is history.

Late Goals Twice Haunt Roca

Bouncing back is something typical of Bengaluru and something that they did with aplomb after the game against Goa. Routine victories over NorthEast United and Pune followed before their lack of game awareness would cost Bengaluru not once, but twice. Chennaiyin travelled to Bangalore with hopes of getting a result, although, in reality, Bengaluru were the favourites to get all three points. Jeje got Chennai off to a magnificent start, putting the away side into the lead after only five minutes. Chhetri levelled proceedings five minutes from time and a draw would’ve been a fair result. Dhanpal Ganesh had other ideas, though. Just three minutes after Bengaluru had pulled themselves level, they were behind once again and there was no recovery time. First home loss of the season.

Steve Coppell’s Jamshedpur arrived four days later which meant that Bengaluru could banish the demons of the Chennaiyin game rather quickly. Or not, as the case may be… Jamshedpur defended resolutely throughout the game, nevertheless, nobody could’ve predicted what happened in stoppage time. Trindade Goncalves stunned the home support with a last-gasp winner. This meant Bengaluru had lost back-to-back games for the first time. To give you some idea of the mental strength of the squad, they would only lose once more in the regular season after the Jamshedpur game. Eleven games played, NINE won, one drawn and one lost.

Won The League Comfortably

That astonishing points haul from their last eleven games meant that Bengaluru finished eight points above the eventual ISL champions, Chennaiyin. We could sit here and argue the toss about whether or not the end of season playoff system is correct and fair, what good would it do, though? It is what it is. John Gregory set his Chennaiyin side up perfectly to thwart Bengaluru in the final and that’s precisely what happened. After Chhetri put Bengaluru in front in the final, everything seemed to be right in the world. Mailson Alves, the brute of a centre-half, had other ideas. He exposed Bengaluru’s weaknesses from set pieces twice in the first half as Chennaiyin turned the game on its head.    

A third goal from the talented Raphael Augusto meant that despite winning the league by eight points, Bengaluru weren’t going to be competing in the AFC Cup this season. Bengaluru, under the tutelage of Carlos Cuadrat, will be looking to go one better this season and make sure they win the league AND the end of season playoffs.

Shrewd Activity In The Transfer Market

Chencho Gyeltshen was courted by a number of clubs throughout the summer. The Bhutanese forward could turn out to be the signing of the summer as he was picked up from Minerva Punjab. Basically, what you need to know is, he scores goals and has done everywhere he has played. He’s scored goals in his native Bhutan, Bangladesh, Thailand and India. Will he be able to make the step up from the I-League, though? I’d say so. He will pretty much be a straight swap for Daniel Lalhlimpuia who departed for Delhi Dynamos. Dependant on how Cuadrat decides to set up, a front three of Chhetri, Miku and Udanta/Gyeltshen will be hard to stop.

Departure wise, losing John Johnson to ATK was something that surprised me. He was immense last season alongside Juanan and it’s a bit odd that he’s left for ATK. I imagined that he would return home to England after leaving Bengaluru, evidently not. He has been replaced by Albert Serran who has experience playing in England, Spain and Cyprus to name just three, and with him also being Spanish, he will link up with Juanan quite smoothly. There have been other ins and outs, but not much worth shouting about in this article. At a later date.

One More Thing

If I was a betting man and luckily I am, I’d be backing Bengaluru to finish in the top four. Have it.

Until the next time.