A First Half Performance Undid Bengaluru’s AFC Cup Record At The Fortress, And Defender Juanan Gonzalez Says That The Belief From The Stands Is What Made The Difference On The Night…
Bengaluru Football Club hadn’t lost an AFC Cup game at the Fortress since April 13 2016, a run that stretched back to their group stage win against Ayeyawady United FC in the 2016 edition of the competition. Though their performance on the night wasn’t the best the stands have witnessed, Spanish defender Juanan Gonzalez believes that the second half fightback signalled hope.
“We didn’t perform well in the first half, and maybe it was the lack of a competitive game for a while that caused that. We did play tough games in Spain, but that was all about learning and this was different. We lacked a bit of luck as well because I thought the first goal was offside and then Sunil had a good chance but the ’keeper pulled off a good save,” said the 31-year-old.
Goals from Rahul Bheke and Erik Paartalu spurred a second half recover, as the Blues went down 3-2 on the night but Juanan says that work is underway to make those strikes count as Carles Cuadrat’s side fly to Turkmenistan for the reverse fixture.
“The most important thing was that at 3-0 down, we didn’t let them keep control and made sure that it was us who dictated the way the game was played. We have two goals to show for that and we have to make it count when we go to play in Turkmenistan.”
The Fortress came alive as Bengaluru fought their way back into a tie that seemed all but lost, and Juanan believes that it was the voices from the stands that played the most important part on the night.
“Every player says it, but I’m going to say it again; the fans are the most important part of this club. They’re always behind us, and on Wednesday they never let their heads drop. It’s not easy, doing what they do. Very often, when we leave the dressing room, they’re the ones we’re roaring ourselves on for. The names on the scoresheet might be those of players, but those goals were assisted by the fans.”
Juanan believes that a strong pre-season was the perfect preparation for this stage of the AFC Cup and that taking the same attitude into the second leg would be paramount to their efforts.
“Pre-season helped us prepare because those were tough games, and despite the results, we did well. We need to take that second-half attitude into the second leg and if we do that, I believe that we have a chance of progressing to the next round.”
With the Blues facing the possibility of an exit from the AFC Cup, a competition that they are out of for the upcoming campaign, Juanan believes that a big push is what is needed. “Everyone knows that we are not playing in the AFC Cup next year, and that’s always on the back of our minds. Knowing that, we’re going to give every last bit of everything we have, before we leave the pitch next week; that much is guaranteed.”