Pressure on Udanta to deliver

Carles Cuadrat has said Udanta Singh (in pic) needs to show more in his performance. DH FILE PHOTO

As Sunil Chhetri once again pulled a rabbit out of the hat to rescue Bengaluru FC and keep them in contention for the top position in the Indian Super League, it accentuates the fact that once again - as is the case with the national team - the onus remains on the age defying 35-year-old to get the goals.

Prior to the clash against FC Goa, coach Carles Cuadrat had lamented the lack of goals from the front three. The injury to Manuel Onwu had meant that BFC had featured the Indian front three of Ashique Kuruniyan, Udanta Singh and Chhetri on multiple occasions.

While Chhetri held up his end of the bargain - scoring seven of BFC’s 13 goals - the other two have flattered to deceive. Udanta has one goal in 11 starts while Ashique, often switching between left back and left wing in his fledgling career in Bengaluru, got his first assist in nine games on Friday.  Udanta especially has struggled for form this season. While his defensive duties have largely been on par with the previous years, his offensive output has taken a nose dive.

With 11 goals from 88 league appearance for BFC, he’s never been the most prolific. However, the winger had shown signs of maturity and improvement year-to-year. It had seemed he was well on his way to fulfilling the raw potential that prompted Ashley Westwood to jump at the first chance to sign him after seeing him for just nine minutes during a friendly game against Tata Football Academy.

After playing as a tearaway winger during his I-League days, his evolution in BFC’s first season in the ISL saw a return of one goal and seven assists as they reached the final. In the second, he took more of a centrestage with five goals and three assists, often making decisive actions in games, to take the team to the title. This season however, it’s been slim pickings.

Cuadrat - who last year picked Udanta as the one with the highest ceiling in terms of potential - responded with taking the Manipuri winger out at half time in the crucial clash against Goa.

“I asked the boys to keep fighting. What you cannot do is not put all your soul in the game. That’s the reason I got Udanta out, because he has to learn,” the Spanish tactician said after the game. 

“He is a great player and he has to give a lot to the team. All the challenges he had (with another player), he lost. Every one. In attack, I asked him to go one-against-one. But he was not at the level.

“We have to try to help him and to understand that he has to make the level or there will be other players in front of him in the line-up.”

Chhetri admitted there was a lot said in the dressing room but backed Udanta, a player he took under his wing since he first walked into the club nearly five years ago, to find his for again.

“He is not a junior boy anymore, he’s grown-up man and one of the most important, if not the most, players in the team. He’s one of the best we have and in the coming matches you will see a more from him,” said the captain. “The coach was probably angry because we all expect so much from Udanta. He’s one of our main guys.”

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