BENGALURU: When Bengaluru FC head coach Carles Cuadrat decided to trust three Indian forwards to deliver goals due to an injury to foreign striker Manuel Onwu, the Spaniard’s action could have changed the face of the Indian Super League where foreign attackers have always been favoured. The national team trio — Sunil Chhetri, Udanta Singh and Ashique Kuruniyan — had a bright start thrashing Chennaiyin FC 3-0 at home and the future looked bright. But since that match, the idea of playing Indian forwards hasn’t yielded the desired results.
Much like the national team, Chhetri is still the only man who could be trusted with scoring goals. The 35-year-old has netted five times while the two others have been involved in just one goal combined. The impact of that has already begun to show. Bengaluru have scored only 11 goals in 10 games and are no longer the favourites to top the league standings. With 16 points from 10 games, they sit third on the table and are desperately looking to solve their scoring woes.
“I feel sorry for the India national team because we had the opportunity to put three of them together and play them week after week. But they showed that there is still a step between Indian and foreign strikers in the league. That’s the reality,” said Cuadrat.The Indian trio has created chances but what they have lacked is the finishing touch. With Onwu back from the injury lay-off, Cuadrat will have the option to go back to the tried and tested method of trusting a foreign striker.
League leaders FC Goa on Friday will be their first big test at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium and if Onwu fails, Bengaluru’s new signing Deshorn Brown will be the one to bank on from the next game onwards. “We have missed a foreign striker just like last season and we have tried many players in that position with the likes of Sunil, Udanta, Ashique, Semboi (Haokip) and (Raphael) Augusto. Hopefully now with Manu and Brown ready, we can convert those chances,” said Cuadrat.
For Bengaluru’s Indian strikers, who have been under pressure to deliver, the match against Goa will be their last chance to prove their mettle. However, Haokip feels otherwise. “It does bother us that we haven’t scored more than we have. But we don’t feel any pressure. What we want to do is get three points when we play together,” he said.