A big reaction is what Albert Roca has asked for, when Bengaluru FC host Aizawl FC on Wednesday in the first of two must-win games if they are to harbour any hopes of making it to the knock-out stages of the AFC Cup for a fourth straight season.
A shock 2-0 defeat to New Radiant in the Maldives last week meant Bengaluru’s chances to make the zonal semifinal of the tournament don’t entirely rest in their hands. Roca’s Blues will have to win both of their remaining two fixtures in Group E while hoping that the Maldivian side drop points at least once. “We are in a situation where we could finish the group stages with 15 points and still find ourselves out of the Cup. But that’s how football is sometimes and we need to accept it and focus on getting our side of the job done and then hope for the best,” said the Spaniard.
Wins in the next two games for both Bengaluru FC and New Radiant would leave the clubs square on points but a superior head-to-head goal difference gives Oscar Bruzon’s side the edge they need to progress in the tournament.
Roca, who had to watch an uncharacteristically bland Bengaluru FC performance in the Maldives from the stands at the National Stadium, will be back on the touchline having served a one-game suspension. And he admits the team will have to do more than just shake off everything from that game. “It was more disappointing than frustrating to watch the way we played last week. We didn’t turn up and were made to suffer. But there’s no time to discuss the defeat. We need to react with a strong performance that gives us the best chance to progress.”
When the two sides met in Guwahati early in April, Bengaluru FC came away 3-1 winners after conceding early. It hasn’t exactly been a comfortable welcome to life in continental football for the Santosh Kashyap-coached side who, with one point from four games, are bottom of the table.
Bengaluru, meanwhile, will have Spanish striker Daniel Segovia back in contention after an injury forced him to miss the trip to Male. “Segovia’s return gives us more options in attack and given our situation, we need goals to finish the game off. Of course, it’s going to take a collective effort over two games to pull us over the line,” said Roca.
In the group’s other game, New Radiant host third-placed Abahani Dhaka in an early kick-off and while Roca admits that the team will have an eye on how the game ends, he’s certain it won’t affect Bengaluru’s intent when they take the pitch. “It’s unfortunate that we have to depend on other results to go our way. But like I’ve said before, we need to fix as much as we can and that will happen when we put on a performance that this team is capable of.”
Kick off at the Kanteerava Stadium is at 8 pm and will be telecast live on the AFC Cup Facebook page.