A closed door affair

A closed door affair

No entry for fans as BFC take on Tampines Rovers

A closed door affair

There was a considerable amount of hype surrounding Bengaluru FC’s first-ever appearance in the quarterfinals of the AFC Cup.

With a new head coach, a new playing philosophy and backed by a handful of new signings, it looked like the IT city was in for a treat on Wednesday. But in the wake of the recent unrest in the city, Bengaluru FC’s first leg quarterfinal tie against Tampines Rovers will unfortunately be played behind closed doors at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium on Wednesday.

“After consultation with the Bengaluru City police, the Asian Football Confederation and the All India Football Federation, it has been decided that Wednesday’s game will be a closed door affair,” said the Bengaluru FC media manager Kunaal Majgaonkar.

“So absolutely nobody, except the players, the support staff, the club (home team) staff and a few media personnel will be allowed inside the stadium premises. This is keeping in mind the situation prevailing in the city and we believe it is in the best interest of everyone.”

While this was not the kind of start Bengaluru’s new head coach Albert Rocca would have expected to his tenure, he said the team will try to get the best possible result against Rovers. “We didn’t expect this. It’s a shame not to have our supporters when we play here. But this is how things stand. We have to accept it and move on,” he said.
“There’s a game at hand, and we’ll do our best to get a good result. It’s a real shame. After almost 3-3-1/2 months of no action, we had this to look forward to. Everybody was expecting to see us in action. But unfortunately it’s not possible now. We have accept reality and do our best in the given circumstances.”

Though playing in an uncomfortable situation at home is a problem that the Bengaluru players can’t do much about, adapting to Rocca’s style of play is something the regulars have been trying hard to achieve. And it won’t be a surprise if the three new foreign recruits, who Rocca sees at the fulcrum of his playing style, make their debut to help the rest settle in to the new methods.

Spaniard Juan Gonzalez could partner experienced defender John Johnson at the back while Australian Cameron Watson is likely to be the link between the Bengaluru backline and the midfield. Veteran Spaniard Alvario Rubio is expected to marshall troops in the midfield, while this time the hosts will be relying on an all-Indian strike force that comprises Sunil Chhetri, CK Vineeth and young Daniel Lalhlimpuia.

Rovers, a five-time S League champions, come into the game on the back of a successful run in Singapore — they’re placed second in the league and are through to the final of the Singapore Super Cup — and will be looking to finally book a semis berth in their fifth attempt in this competition.

While the absence of their prolific striker Fazrul Nawaz – missing out to an injury – could be a blow for the visitors, head coach Akbar Nawas will hope that Billy Mehmat and Sufian Annuar will provide the side the edge in the attacking third.

Their star attraction — Jermaine Pennant — will be the one Mehmat relies on as the Englishman will be hoping to set the wings on fire with his pace and guile. At 33, Pennant still has pace to burn and can whip crosses into the box at will. He has already chipped in with a couple of goals for his new team this season and will be eager to add more to his tally.

So will Pennant  be the difference for the visitors or will Bengaluru rise above the problems here at home, only time call tell. But for now one thing can be assured, be it closed doors or not, the teams will hold nothing back as they look to secure a place in the last-four of the competition.

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