“The players gave it everything they had”

The Boss Discussed The Clash Against Istiklol, Praised The Effort Of His Boys And The Supporters…

Bengaluru FC bowed out of the 2017 AFC Cup after going down 2-3 on aggregate in the Inter-zone final against Tajikistan’s FC Istiklol. Trailing 0-1 from the first leg in Dushanbe, a ten-man Blues’ side was held to a 2-2 draw at the Fortress in a high intensity game which lived up to its billing.

Speaking at the post-match press conference, Head Coach Albert Roca shared his thoughts on the tie, while praising the effort of the players and discussing the dubious calls that marred the game.

“It’s two important moments from two different matches. They were crucial and were affected by the referee’s decision. These decisions can break everything, what we have prepared for the game, and then with the red card, we had to play with 10-men for almost 55 minutes. It was almost impossible for us in the scenario. I’m sad for the team and the players who gave their best for the fans. I don’t think the officials were up to the mark, but we can’t do anything about it as we have no control on it.”

Toni Dovale started on the bench and came on in the second half to add more firepower to the BFC frontline. His pass to striker Daniel Lalhlimpuia was what earned the penalty that skipper Sunil Chhetri put away to make it 2-2 on the night. Discussing the Spaniard’s performance, Roca added, “Toni was injured and had three broken ribs ahead of the game. He went on to play in the second half because I asked him to. He was not fit, but I have to commend his performance as he gave everything in the second half.”

One of the biggest talking points on the game was defender Harmanjot Khabra’s sending off. “I don’t want to blame Khabra because he’s my player. It’s a shame, because it’s such a big match and he knows that what happened was wrong. But that’s football, sometimes these things happen,” said Roca.

He further added, “It’s hard because the referees made big mistakes in these two games. A penalty (late on in Dushanbe) could have put us in a different position with the score before the second leg, but then the one they were awarded at the start here changed things again. I don’t want to repeat, but it wasn’t easy and everybody has seen that. But we have to accept the rules. It was surprising that Khabra received the yellow in that moment and it cost us, because their player didn’t receive one for something he did.”

The boss signed off with a word of praise for the supporters who thronged the Fortress to spur the Blues on throughout the 90 minutes. “With these supporters, we can go to any war. They really do affect the way we play and it showed last night. Even when we were a man and a goal down, that team played their hearts out and it comes from wanting to perform for the thousands that sing for them from the stands. We have an important month ahead and come November, we will fight again and we will fight together.”

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