Ashley Westwood has said there’s no pressure on his boys but hopes they give good account of themselves as Bengaluru FC will be up against fellow I-League competitors and favourites Salgaocar FC in the semifinals of the Durand Cup to be played at the Raia Sports Complex, in Goa, on Thursday.
Bengaluru FC have played Salgaocar twice, coming away 2-1 winners in Goa and Bengaluru last season but the Blues know better than to rest on past laurels. However, protecting their undefeated record in Goa (played 6, won 5, drawn 1) is something that would provide motivation to Bengaluru FC.
“We’re looking forward to a good game as it is the semifinal and it’s always a big occasion. Fortunately we are the away side so there’s not much pressure on us,” said Westwood.
The gaffer played two completely different sets of defenders in as many league games and with the tournament rule of allowing only two foreign players on the pitch, has looked at the tournament as a chance to give his Indian players a look in. “Salgaocar have the advantage of playing many competitive matches with two foreigners over the years in the Goa League. It’s a little bit of an unknown territory for us. But one that we are looking forward to as it gives us a chance to keep improving our Indian players which was one of the main reasons the club was formed. Let’s just hope we put in a good performance and give a good account of ourselves as champions.”
Salgaocar, chasing their third Durand Cup, have shopped in the foreigner department this summer, adding former Pune FC midfielder Douhou Pierre and Zambian defender Francis Kasonde to the squad. Derrick Pereira has also retained the joint top-scorer from the last season of the I-League, Darryl Duffy, and much of Salgaocar’s hopes will be pinned on the Scotsman to fire.
Both teams took a similar route out of the group stages with a win and a draw each and Bengaluru FC are well aware that the margin for error is very less from here on. “We have taken the positives and worked on the shortcomings from the games in the group stages. The team is motivated and knows that a slip-up cannot be afforded. We have been doing the right things and hopefully it will all come together for us on Thursday,” said skipper Sunil Chhetri.
The game kicks off at 8.45 am. In the second semifinal, which will be played later in the day, Pune FC take on Sporting Clube de Goa.